UNITAD, Iraq, and Finland Co-Host a Special Event at UNHQ: Presenting Investigations into ISIL’s Crimes Against the Tikrit Air Academy Personnel

Baghdad, 15 June 2022– The United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL, jointly with The Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations, and The Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations co-hosted a special event titled “The Pattern of Mass Killing: ISIL crimes against the Tikrit Air Academy Personnel.”

The Special Event was held at the Headquarters of the United Nations i New York and brought together participants from the diplomatic community, civil society and different UN offices.

“Our special event coincides with the eighth anniversary of this massacre; one of the most heinous crimes committed by ISIL against the predominantly Shia unarmed cadets of the Iraqi Air Force.” said Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD Christian Ritscher in his opening remarks, adding that: “UNITAD has completed a case brief on this massacre with detailed evidence that can be used to support prosecutions of ISIL members, including some who are allegedly most responsible for those crimes.”

H.E. Ambassador Mohammed Hussein Bahr AlUloom, Permanent representative of Iraq to the UN underlined that Iraq will spare no effort, and for as long as it takes to bring before justice all perpetrators of terrorist crimes  against all Iraqis especially those committed by ISIL (Daesh). The crime against Tikrit Academy cadets, is rightfully called by Iraqis crime as (the crime of our time). Just as victory over those terrorists was obtained by Iraqis, also fair, transparent and just trials and accountability of those who committed these heinous crimes will be obtained by Iraqis themselves and according to the national legal procedures consistent with the Iraqi legislative code. H.E. Bahr AlUloom, commended the efforts of UNITAD team and Special Adviser Christian Ritscher, and welcomed continued cooperation between the Iraqi government and the UNITAD team .

Special Adviser Christian Ritscher renewed his gratitude to the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi judiciary for the invaluable collaboration with UNITAD on the investigations into those crime, as well as the tremendous work conducted by the national experts in mass grave excavations and victim remains identification. “With the continued collaboration with the Government of Iraq and Iraqi judiciary, UNITAD will be able to further advance investigations towards ensuring accountability for ISIL international crimes, and serving justice to the victims, who have been waiting for long to see their day in court,” said Special Adviser Ritscher.

During the event, UNITAD presented a video that was produced in partnership with SITU Research, as a special production aiming at bringing the crime scene to viewers. The video synthesizes testimonial, documentary, digital and forensic evidence into a compelling narrative that tells the story of the core international crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh members in Tikrit. Additionally, UNITAD’s lead investigator on this file presented an overview and presentation on the case.

Through a video address, Yasser Al Khozaa’i, Investigative Judge at the Rusafa Court in Bagdad, presented the work done by the Iraqi Judiciary investigating the Tikrit Air Academy massacre, including the support provided to other countries who can arrest and prosecute perpetrators. He also highlighted the Iraqi judiciary’s approach in extending full support to UNITAD, under the guidance of the President of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, Dr. Faiq Zeidan.

In his intervention, Mr. Sarhang Hamasaeed, the Director of Middle East Programs at the United States Institute of Peace highlighted the importance of accountability in reconciliation and peacebuilding, adding that holding ISIL perpetrators accountable is highly significant to ensure that the massacre was not committed by one community against another community, but by members of a criminal organization who committed those international crimes.

Following the Q&A, H.E. Ms. Miia Rainne, Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations and Chargé d’Affaires a.i, provided concluding remarks for the event, highlighting that achieving accountability, especially for the most serious international crimes, is a precondition for sustainable peace and that victims for these crimes deserve to have closure and information about the fate of their family members.

The video presented during the event will be made available in full on UNITAD’s official website and social media.