Discussing Da’esh’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage, The UNITAD-NGO Dialogue Forum Holds its Fourth Thematic Roundtable
Baghdad 3 June 2022: The United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL held the Fourth Thematic Roundtable of the UNITAD-NGO Dialogue Forum. The thematic roundtables of the Forum bring together tens of Iraqi and International Non-Governmental Organizations to address one theme relating to UNITAD’s investigative activities. The fourth thematic roundtable was held under the title “Da’esh/ISIL’s Crimes in the Destruction of Cultural Heritage”.
Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD Christian Ritscher elaborated in his opening remarks on UNITAD’s work aiming to bring Da’esh/ISIL perpetrators to justice, including those responsible for the destruction of cultural heritage, as the Team plans to expand its investigative work on those crimes. He further added: “I’m delighted that a number of Member States have recently provided funding to support UNITAD’s investigations in the destruction of cultural heritage”. Addressing the present NGOs, Special Adviser Ritscher also explained that: “the principal objective of this roundtable’s discussion is to exchange thoughts and get your advice on how UNITAD can work better with the NGO community to strengthen our investigations into ISIL destruction of cultural heritage”.
Mr. Don Schultz, Head of FIU5, UNITAD’s Field Investigation Unit focused on Da’esh/ISIL crimes committed against the Christian community in Iraq, spoke about UNITAD’s investigations in this area, as a significant portion of this destruction was committed against Christian sites, including the destruction and vandalization of churches and monasteries.
Mr. Seán Fobbe, Chief Legal Officer of RASHID International presented on the work of his organization, with special focus on ISIL crimes in destroying Yazidi cultural heritage sites, which he described as aiming to destroy the soul of the Yazidis. He further explored how the destruction of cultural heritage, besides being an international crime on its own, can also serve as evidence to prove the intent for committing genocide.
Mr. Farhad Kakay, Director of the Chiraw Organization spoke about the crimes committed against the Kakaai community, which aimed to destroy the community and its culture, including Kakaai cultural heritage sites.
In 2014, ISIL deliberately committed what could amount to war crimes through destruction of cultural heritage in an attempt to erase Iraq’s rich cultural diversity. Investigating those crimes by ISIL/Da’esh against the rich and diverse Iraqi cultural heritage is one of UNITAD’s cross cutting investigative themes and one that requires continuous collaboration with the different constituencies of the Iraqi community. The fourth thematic roundtable, thus, allowed for an open discussion with different NGOs about this investigative area and how UNITAD can work better with NGOs in this area.
The UNITAD-NGO Dialogue Forum was launched in December 2020, with the aim of serving as a platform that brings together all relevant international and Iraqi NGOs for regular collaboration, exchange of ideas and best practices, as well as exploring areas for enhancing cooperation. The UNITAD-NGO Dialogue Forum has been convening two types of events; the first is a series of thematic roundtable discussions in a panel-format, addressing specific thematic areas relating to UNITAD’s investigative activities. The events bring together international and local experts with UNITAD team member for an in-depth discussion on one theme for each roundtable. While the second type of events is the biannual plenary roundtable which aim to provide a broader update on the work of UNITAD, and to serve as an open space for suggestions on how to better engage with NGOs. The plenary biannual meeting also serves as a space where survivors can have their voices heard by both UNITAD and the NGO community.
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