Special Adviser Ritscher Briefs UN Security Council on 11th Report: UNITAD is at a critical juncture, sovereign decision rests with Iraq

Baghdad, 04 December 2023 – Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD Christian Ritscher briefed the United Nations Security Council on the 11th report detailing the Team’s work over the past six months.

This report includes “significant milestones in the work of the Team and comes at a critical juncture for the Team itself and its future direction”, as he mentioned.  He reiterated UNITAD's unwavering commitment to deliver on its core mandate in line with resolution 2379 (2017) and the Team’s Terms of Reference. At the same time, the Team has taken steps to implement resolution 2697 (2023), which extended UNITAD's mandate until September 17, 2024, only, and requested it to fulfill additional tasks towards the implementation of both resolutions.

Special Adviser Ritscher explained that since September, the Team has shifted its investigative resources, to respond to the requirements of Security Council resolution 2697 (2023) and its timeline, in a way that expedites the less advanced investigations and their planned outputs. He noted, however, that some of the Team’s key and complex investigations most probably cannot be completed in one year, including “the question of ISIL’s genocidal intent against the Shia community and the Team’s work on Al Hol returnees, a file that is expected to need years of work in Iraq and elsewhere.”

He explained that over the past weeks, he has been working closely with counterparts in the Government of Iraq and commended their continued support of the Team’s work and the constructive consultations which started in follow-up of Resolution 2697.  He, further, noted that “our shared goal is to ensure that the work of the Team can be used to support accountability efforts in Iraq and throughout the world.”

One key achievement during the reporting period was formally sharing with the Iraqi judiciary a comprehensive case-assessment report on ISIL’s development and deployment of Chemical Weapons in Iraq: “This report is a milestone in UNITAD’s pioneering line of investigations that examines how ISIL developed and deployed Chemical Weapons in Iraq, including against the Shia Turkmen minority in the town Taza Khurmatu,” as Special Adviser Ritscher elaborated.

The Team has implemented a modality of cooperation with the Iraqi judiciary to develop joint case files of alleged ISIL perpetrators who fled Iraq. The first joint case file on international crimes allegedly committed by one ISIL perpetrator has been completed, provided to the concerned country, and helped lead to the arrest of this suspect. “this joint modality represents a framework through which the Team and Iraq can meaningfully and closely cooperate, share information, and put to use their respective evidence and knowledge to hold ISIL members accountable for their international crimes.”

He expressed his hope that such prosecutions for ISIL members on charges of international crimes can happen in Iraq, mentioning that the establishment of a domestic legal basis for international crimes: “would open new horizons for Iraq as it paves the way for trials against ISIL perpetrators on such charges, with the participation of Iraqi victims and witnesses. This is not only what UNITAD is meant to support, but also the main demand of victim and survivor communities in Iraq: to see their day in court.”

Special Adviser Ritscher underscored that the consent of the Host Government in any given context is key for a UN mission to conduct its work, stressing that it is even more crucial for an investigative team with a unique mandate, such as UNITAD. “We have conducted our work accordingly with full respect to the sovereignty of Iraq and will continue to do so. It remains up to Iraq to exercise its sovereign right to decide on the future of this mission,” he further explained.

 He commended the commitment of Iraq to support the Team’s cooperation with third states. “With the approval of the Chief Justice, Foreign Minister and the Chair of the National Coordinating Committee, I am pleased to note that an agreed modality that better outlines the Team’s evidence sharing with third states has been concluded, per Resolution 2697.”

Special Adviser Ritscher warned that: “a premature and abrupt ending of UNITAD can only mean a loss for all those concerned. This is why I urge the Government of Iraq and the esteemed members of this Council to give due consideration to the end state of our mandate more than the end date.”

Concluding, Special Adviser Ritscher stressed the need to keep the plight of ISIL’s victims and survivors at the core of collective efforts towards justice and accountability. “They are the ones who see the work of UNITAD as a beacon of hope, and an opportunity to have their voices heard, their suffering acknowledged, and their stories told... We must ensure that those who had the courage to speak-up against ISIL crimes are not let down or left behind.”

Read Special Adviser Ritscher's full briefing here



For more information please contact Public Information Officer (Maha Thaher) for the

United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL,

E-mail: UNITAD-PIO@un.org