UNITAD chief says end to UNITAD mission will be a loss to Iraq
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Christian Ritscher, Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS (UNITAD) on Monday warned the United Nations Security Council that ending the UNITAD mission would be a loss to Iraq.
He updated the Security Council on the 11th report detailing the Team’s work over the past six months.
“This Council knows best that the consent of the Host Government in any given context is key for a UN mission to conduct its work. But I would like to stress that it is even more crucial for an investigative team with a unique mandate, such as UNITAD,” he told the UN Security Council.
“Since the beginning, the Team has been working in Iraq, at the request of its government, and in partnership with Iraqi counterparts, to investigate ISIL (ISIS) crimes against all affected communities in the country.”
“We have conducted our work accordingly with full respect to the sovereignty of Iraq and will continue to do so. It remains up to Iraq to exercise its sovereign right to decide on the future of this mission,” he added.
However, he stressed that a premature and abrupt ending of UNITAD “can only mean a loss for all those 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.”
However, Iraq’s representative during the meeting reiterated that the UNITAD mandate must end in September 2024.
He also complained that to date, the Iraqi Government has only received reports and summaries that have no legal value before national courts and has received no evidence from UNITAD that could be used in criminal proceedings.
Under Iraqi law, the death penalty can be imposed on suspects charged with terrorism offenses. The UNITAD says this has prevented them from sharing evidence regarding potential violations of international criminal law with Iraqi authorities, angering the Iraqi authorities.
“Over the next weeks and months, I will continue to work closely with all Iraqi counterparts to furnish possibilities and present different scenarios. It will be up to Iraq to choose an option, we will of course abide by that choice,” UNITAD head Christian Ritscher said.
“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.”
Murad Ismael, the co-founder and president of Sinjar Academy, also told Kurdistan 24 that “ending UNITAD mandate without a pathway for investigation continuity and/or trials is the worst outcome victims of ISIS expected, or deserved. Where victims will go for justice? What will happened to evidence they provided risking their lives?”
“The Iraqi state not only failed to protect the people of Iraq, including our Yazidi people, but today stops in the way of justice. A seasonable government that cares about its citizens won’t do that. But we understand Yazidis are not an important element of Iraqi decision making and their interests, which in this case, is very minimal, we just want some justice so we can live with it, but even that is seen as too much.”
“The decision to end UNITAD is connected to the direction in which Iraq is heading: ending international community presence in Iraq in all its shapes and forms. We all know where this pressure is coming from: Iran.”
“The interest of Iraqi people lies in appropriate handling of ISIS accountability. This decision is overlooking the interests of the Iraqi people. They want to also close down UNAMI.”