Remarks [as delivered] by SA Khan at the UN Digital Dialogue Event Organized by the German Mission
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It really is a humbling experience to join all of you in remembrance to events that took place what had started six years ago. And one can dive in and start in the five minutes, go through a list of achievements and also deficiencies but, with your leave, I think it is sometimes good to pause and to reflect. And what I would urge with the greatest of humility at the end of this session, if we are to move forward, let's reflect upon the powerful words of Nadia, and also the message of Amal, and also what the SRSG Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert just said.
Six years ago, today, pogroms commenced that not only shocked the conscience of humanity, it shaped the conscience of humanity. I've had the distinct honour of meeting Survivor after Survivor, and what strikes me, it never ceases to amaze me is that when I speak to a whole variety of victims, those that had been enslaved and lived to tell the tale, that concern is not simply one for themselves. It is devoid very often of pity. It is, as Nadia and others have mentioned, the concern of where are their sisters and their mothers? where are the remains of their fathers or their brothers.? And I think this has to be etched or seared, in fact, upon our memory and upon our own souls. Because this care for the other is what defines us as humanity. And it's that insistent demand for justice that really, if I may say so, Nadia personifies. Nadia's persistent demand, coming from a village of Kojo to the halls of the United Nations and the capitals of the world, with a simple and yet resounding message that this is wrong. It requires investigation. It requires juridical determination. If we are to be true as an international community, that every life matters, that every human being has certain inalienable rights. And if these are to stop being platitudes or false promises, it requires continued action.
I really applaud the work of Nadia Murad, the advocacy of Amal Clooney, the political stewardship of the United Kingdom, our penholder, the Government of Iraq, the Security Council to create UNITAD. But we are an investigative team on the lookout for a court, and we are trying to feed into as many courts as possible where fair trials can be conducted. This unity of the council coalesced around a common objective, namely the common ground that repudiated the false un-Islamic ideology of Da’esh. That that pretence that it had anything to do with religion was to be exposed, and that the rights of the individual to practice what they wish, to live lives with freedom, was something of concern to the whole international community.
I take this opportunity to note the role of those organizing today’s [event]. The Federal Republic of Germany who has been a strong ally of UNITAD, in terms of giving us expert personnel to the analysis unit and financial investigative capacity. The United Arab Emirates, that has helped with our investigations into sexual and gender-based crimes. Of course, the constant and unwavering support of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands for witness protection, the United States for exhumations, Denmark and Sweden. All of that has allowed UNITAD to help with exhumations; to collect evidence, whether it's testimonial or digital; to work with the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi judiciary so we could collect cell site records from June to August 2014 that allows us to get a grip on the criminal network of Da’esh, where individuals of interest to our investigations went, so that we can actually fulfil a promise that Nadia has mentioned, that individuals and survivors have their right to confront their perpetrators in a court of law.
I have had the sober privilege of seeing the effect of that in my career. Sometimes I have seen individuals that are very often the world would say broken, confront their accuser in a courtroom. And the power imbalance fundamentally alters in that scenario. The individual that has been oppressed or tortured has the whip hand, and the fact of confronting the accuser and giving an account can be immensely powerful, and it can also have an effect on the perpetrator as well.
A lot has been said regarding the importance of infrastructure. Education and health are also forms of justice; not all justice is confined to the courtroom. But the part of UNITAD's mandate that I am responsible for, that the Council is entrusted to us deals with legal accountability. And I applaud the work of the Government of Iraq and President Barham Saleh, to present a bill to Parliament last November, that would allow Iraq to prosecute the acts of Da’esh against all communities, including the Yazidi community, as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. In my respectful view this is critically important. If we don't call it out for what it was, if we don't label the crimes correctly, we are doomed, or at least, there's a real risk that they may reoccur. And I think in terms of giving confidence to the Yazidi community, the courage and the stamina of the international community to create that piece of legal architecture would go a long way.
My final remarks, if I may, would be really for all of us, to recognize the immense courage of the people of Iraq and the Yazidi community. I often say, because I find it really a truism, that their survival, Nadia, your survival, those of the Yazidi individuals that are all over the world now, the way that you are practicing your beliefs is a very eloquent and powerful repudiation of the criminal intents of Da’esh to silence your voices, to suffocate your beliefs. And I think it should be a timely reminder for us, the international community, that we must fulfil our collective promises, which is to ensure justice, and expose the criminality of Da’esh, prove it beyond reasonable doubt in courts, throughout the world, wherever possible. And at the same time, by doing that, we will demonstrate the courage of the Iraqi people, and the resilience and the heroism of the Yazidi community.
Thank you so much.