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Iraq: UN team issues latest report on terrorist atrocities

Christian Ritscher, Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD, briefs the Security Council
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Christian Ritscher, Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD, briefs the Security Council

Iraq: UN team issues latest report on terrorist atrocities

Human Rights

The UN team investigating crimes committed by Da’esh terrorist group has issued its latest report documenting the terrorist group’s atrocities in Iraq, laying the groundwork for future prosecutions.

Christian Ritscher, head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh – otherwise known as the Islamic State group or ISIL – outlined to ambassadors in the Security Council on Monday a comprehensive assessment detailing heinous crimes of sexual violence perpetrated by ISIL fighters during their reign. The report was published at the weekend.

The assessment follows a detailed report, based on the findings from three years of dedicated fieldwork, into the development and use of chemical weapons by the terrorist group against the Shia Turkmen minority in Taza Khurmatu, northern Iraq.

“It is important to underline that when these assessments are shared, they are delivered in line with our mandate and Terms of Reference,” Mr. Ritscher said.

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Deprioritizing work

In his briefing, Mr. Ritscher also noted that with the end of UNITAD’s mandate in September 2024, “the Team will not be able to deliver final outputs on all lines of inquiry it has initiated but will only be able to deliver preliminary findings”.

He added that UNITAD will also be deprioritizing what cannot be completed within the timeframe, including some key, but complex investigations, such as the crimes committed by ISIL in Mosul, the group’s destruction of cultural heritage and pillaging of oil and natural resources, and the terror network’s “genocidal intent” against the Shiite community.

Mr. Ritscher also addressed the Team’s commitment to supporting Iraq in establishing a legal basis for investigating and prosecuting international crimes, including its active collaboration with Iraqi counterparts in developing draft legislation and providing technical comments to align it with international and customary law.

Evidence management

Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of evidence management, noting that UNITAD holds 39 terabytes of information collected over the last five years.  

“This includes records collected from Iraqi authorities – which is the vast majority - from civil society organizations, and open sources as well as statements and other materials collected from individuals in Iraq, mostly witnesses,” Mr. Ritscher said.

Future of UNITAD

In his briefing, the UNITAD head also addressed the future of UNITAD, saying it remains up to Iraq to decide on the mission’s continuation. He cautioned that a premature and abrupt end would be a loss for all concerned.

“This is why I urge the Government of Iraq and the esteemed members of this Council to give due consideration to the end state of our mandate more than the end date,” he said.

Mr. Ritscher said he would continue to work closely with all Iraqi counterparts to present different options and possibilities.

“It will be up to Iraq to choose an option, we will of course abide by that choice. While UNITAD was never meant to last forever, we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that the work it has done will not be lost,” he said.