International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism

On the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, Karim A. A. Khan QC, Special Adviser & Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) recalled the suffering, loss, courage and immense dignity of those affected by such crimes.

“I continue to be astonished and inspired by the steadfastness and resilience of the survivors of ISIL crimes that I meet from all communities in Iraq and globally. Despite the horrors they faced, they remain persistent in their calls for justice”, said the Special Adviser. 

“This simple yet resounding demand for justice is what UNITAD is working to achieve in partnership with survivor groups”, he said, adding that “legal accountability requires thorough investigations, the necessary legal infrastructure, and fair judicial proceedings leading to final determinations against those responsible which are based on evidence.”

“A proper accountability process gives survivors their day in court to face their abusers and see them held to account for their acts. For many this also constitutes a profound moment of healing”, the Special Adviser underscored.

He also underlined the importance of engaging with, and safeguarding, victims throughout their interaction with the justice process to promote their well-being.  

What is needed is a complete and effective approach when engaging with survivors that provides appropriate assistance and ensures adequate measures are incorporated to protect their safety, physical and psychological well-being, and dignity”, the Special Adviser emphasized.

A victim and survivor centered approach requires understanding and sensitivity in addressing the profound trauma that many victims of ISIL crimes have suffered. It also requires us to ensure that sexual and gender-based crimes are thoroughly investigated. Crimes against children are a particularly odious exploitation of the most vulnerable that must not be ignored and must be investigated with particular expertise and attention. UNITAD’s clinical psychologists and witness protection experts are an integral part of its investigations, ensuring that victims are not exposed to further harm during UNITAD’s activities.

The Special Adviser reaffirmed that there is no hierarchy of victim in UNITAD’s approach when investigating ISIL crimes, recalling that all communities in Iraq, whether Christian, Kakai’i, Shabak, Shia, Sunni, Turkmen, or Yazidi, have all suffered at the hands of ISIL. He further underlined that the collective efforts of all communities in Iraq are central to ensuring victims receive the support they need, noting that the recent adoption of the “Interfaith Statement on the Victims and Survivors of ISIL Crimes” by the religious leaders of Iraq marks a historic step towards this common goal.

“Today we renew our commitment to be true, as an international community, to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that the interests of victims are fully reflected in accountability processes and their right to justice is vindicated. Action and due process is how we best pay tribute to the courage of victims and survivors”, concluded the Special Adviser.