UNITAD and Stanford University Conclude Seminar on Mainstreaming Trauma-Informed Approach to Investigations

The United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) and Stanford University’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice concluded a seminar on a trauma informed approach to accountability for international crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq, in conclusion to various roundtable discussions.

The seminar, which was held on 28 April 2022 in Stanford University intended to provide a high-impact forum to showcase UNITAD’s Witness Protection and Support Unit (WPSU) innovative trauma-informed approach to investigations and the range of psychosocial activities of the WPSU in conjunction with colleagues from Stanford’s Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Program (HRTMHP). The forum gathered a wide range of stakeholders representing various academic disciplines, civil society organizations as well as the International Criminal Court, with the aim of  engaging with the experience of the WPSU, and discussing best practices. It was an important arena to stimulate dialogue on lessons learned from the collective experience of the UNITAD/Stanford team and identify areas in which current practices on the ground in Iraq can be further enhanced.

Dr. Nenna Ndukwe explained during the seminar UNITAD’s approach to promoting and implementing a trauma-informed approach and how it is embedded in the Team’s internal and external activities. Dr. Ndukwe underlined the importance of UNITAD’s partnerships with national partners and the Government of Iraq, as well as international institutions such as the HRTMHP at Stanford University in mainstreaming the Team’s trauma-informed approach to investigations highlighting that this seminar marks the continued partnership with Stanford’s HRTMHP, and reaffirming that “UNITAD experts will continue to employ best practices that safeguard vulnerable witnesses and survivors, and ensure the lessons learned from its employment of such practices are put to use for improving investigative approaches across the sector”.

From the outset of its work, UNITAD has sought to creatively implement its mandate drawing on a wide range of partnerships with survivor groups, national authorities, private sector entities and non-governmental organizations. Cognizant of the fact that investigations involving witnesses and survivors requires an approach sensitive to the trauma they have suffered because of ISIL crimes. The work of UNITAD’s WPSU has been central to the investigations ensuring a trauma-informed approach is embedded in all interviews, aiming to create conditions whereby witnesses can provide the fullest possible account while ensuring the utmost regard for their well-being.

In May 2021, UNITAD WPSU psychologists in collaboration with experts from Stanford HRTMHP published the “Trauma-Informed Investigations Field Guide” document which is a guide adopted by UNITAD in an effort to share leading, actionable practice for domestic and international investigators with respect to their engagement with vulnerable survivors and witnesses.  The publication and more information about the work of UNITAD’s WPSU can be found on UNITAD’s website.


For More Information, please contact Mr. Georges Fakhry, Chief Public Information Officer for the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL by E-mail: georges.fakhry@un.org