UN appoints new head of investigative body for ISIS war crimes
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Christian Ritscher from Germany as the new head of the United Nations' investigative body into the war crimes and other human rights abuses committed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Iraq on Tuesday.
Congrats Christian! Mr. Christian Ritscher of the Federal Republic of Germany - Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) | United Nations Secretary-General https://t.co/3CGzZslvJa— Karim A. A. Khan QC (@KarimKhanQC) September 7, 2021
Ritscher replaces Karim Khan from the UK. Khan was the first Special Adviser of UNITAD (United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS) and held the position from July 2018 until his resignation, effective June 15, 2021.
In June, he started as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court with a daunting caseload, which included a probe into Israel and the Palestinians – the most politically fraught file in the tribunal's history.
UNITAD was established by UN Security Council Resolution 2379 in 2017 "to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL (Da'esh) accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed by the terrorist group."
The former UNITAD head previously told the UN Security Council that the body's investigation is focused on three key areas. These are crimes against the Yezidi (Ezidi) minority in the Sinjar (Shingal) district in August 2014, ISIS crimes in Mosul between 2014 and 2016, and the mass killing of unarmed Iraqi air force cadets from the Tikrit Air Academy in June 2014.
Ritscher previously served as a Federal Public Prosecutor at the German Federal Court of Justice, with more than 30 years of professional experience in international and domestic criminal law prosecutions and investigations, the UN said.
Moreover, he was Head of the German War Crimes Unit S4, responsible for the prosecution and charging of individuals in Germany in relation to international crimes that may have been committed elsewhere, including in Iraq and Syria.
This included prosecutions against alleged ISIS members for their role in the genocide committed against the Yezidi community in Iraq in 2014, as well as other charges of international crimes.
Murad Ismael, the co-founder of the foundation and president of the Sinjar Academy, told Kurdistan 24 that "our (Yezidi) community is looking forward to working with H.E. in order to complete the mission of UNITAD Iraq and bring justice to victims of Yazidi genocide. There is still a lot that needs to be done."
He added that Ritscher "is a good choice given the German role in accountability and his own experience in the Yazidi (Yezidi) case and ISIS-related investigation in general."
Congratulations to our friend Mr. Christian Ritscher, announced as new head of @UNITAD_Iraq , formerly head of German War Crimes Office. Mr. Ritscher is a serious prosecutor who has already focused great energy on building cases in court. We look forward to continued cooperation. pic.twitter.com/SKM4zrpTMG— FreeYezidiFoundation (@Free_Yezidi) September 8, 2021
The former German prosecutor also showed an interest in the Yezidi case and talked at the beginning of August at the Free Yezidi Foundation's panel on the Seven-Year Commemoration of the Yezidi Genocide. At that event, he underlined the importance of bringing ISIS members to justice for their crimes.
"We are very pleased that Mr. Ritscher has been named the new head of UNITAD. He is a serious investigator and has been dedicated to quietly, professionally building cases against ISIS members," Pari Ibrahim, the Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), told Kurdistan 24.
"I believe he is focused on the right things and is a great person for this job."