Who we are

Between June 2014 and December 2017, Da'esh/ISIL captured and controlled large territories in Iraq, committing heinous crimes; acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The subsequent liberation of these areas from the control of Da'esh/ISIL exposed the magnitude of the group’s crimes. Witness testimonies revealed a plethora of criminal acts committed against the populations under Da'esh/ISIL control, including executions, torture, amputations, ethno-sectarian attacks, rape and sexual slavery imposed on women and girls. Thousands of children have become victims, witnesses and forced perpetrators of Da'esh/ISIL atrocities. To date, dozens of mass graves containing the remains of thousands of people have been discovered in areas formerly controlled by Da'esh/ISIL.

As Da'esh/ISIL was driven from its strongholds in Iraq, the international community emphasized the crucial importance of holding senior members accountable for the international crimes they have committed, on the basis of objective, evidence-based investigations and analysis. It also recognized that the detailed and factual presentation of Da'esh/ISIL atrocities in fair and independent criminal proceedings will be central to efforts aimed at confuting the ideological underpinnings of the Da'esh/ISIL movement, and thereby reducing its ability to spread further.

Against this backdrop, on 9 August 2017, the Government of Iraq called upon the international community to assist in ensuring that members of Da'esh/ISIL are held accountable for the serious crimes that had been committed against its people. In response, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2379, establishing the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), to be headed by a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General.

UNITAD has operated in Iraq at the invitation of – and in close cooperation with- the Government. This unique form of in-country cooperation between the host State and an investigative mechanism of its kind sets UNITAD apart.

UNITAD is an independent and impartial investigative team that aims to promote accountability of Da'esh/ISIL members for their international crimes amounting to war crimes, crimes against humanity and in some cases, genocide in Iraq. UNITAD carries out its mandate through:

  • Close cooperation with Iraqi authorities including providing expertise and equipment to various national counterparts, in particular the Iraqi judiciary, as well as capacity building of Iraqi specialists in different fields such as mass grave excavations, identification of human remains, trauma-informed approaches to investigations, joint case-building and others;
  • Structural Investigations that cover all affected communities through the principle of “no hierarchy of victims”, focusing on all communities in Iraq that were targeted by Da'esh/ISIL, including Yazidis, Christians, Shiites, Sunnis, Shabak, Kaka’i and Turkmen;
  • Overarching thematic investigative lines through the Gender and Children Crimes Unit which focuses on gender-based crimes, crimes against children, and the Economic Crimes Unit which focuses on Da'esh/ISIL economic and financial structures, and related crimes;
  • Trauma-informed and victim centered approaches to investigations through a dedicated Witness Protection and Support Unit (WPSU) which integrates those approaches in all aspects of the Team’s work and mainstreams them among partners and stakeholders at the national level;
  • Evidence management in line with international standards through which the Team ensures adherence to international standards and follows impeccable chain of custody, rendering evidence admissible before all competent courts. The Team’s Forensic Science Unit works through harnessing technical, forensic, and anthropological knowledge and expertise in gathering and preserving evidence;
  • Promoting accountability for Da'esh/ISIL international crimes throughout the world; through international conferences, workshops, joint special events co-hosted with Iraq, and bilateral meetings;
  • Continuous engagement with affected communities, civil society actors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including through the UNITAD-NGO Dialogue Forum.