Iraq demands access to evidence gathered by UN team investigating ISIS crimes

Unitad aims to ensure accountability for crimes committed by extremist group

Authorities say Unitad must provide evidence of ISIS crimes against the Iraqi population to ensure the perpetrators face justice. Reuters
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Baghdad said on Monday that it has yet to receive any evidence from a UN investigation into potential war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by ISIS, saying it was delaying prosecutorial efforts in Iraqi courts.

“We reiterate that until this moment, the Iraqi government has not received any evidence from Unitad [UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh/ISIL] that could be used in criminal proceedings,” Abbas Al Saltlawi, Iraq's chargé d'affaires at the UN, told the 15-member Security Council.

“We only received reports and summaries that have no legal value before national courts.”

He stressed that Iraqi authorities view this as a breach of UN Security Council resolutions regarding the matter and that Unitad must provide evidence of ISIS crimes against the Iraqi population to ensure accountability and justice.

Iraq has voiced increasing frustration with Unitad – which was established in 2017 – accusing it of withholding evidence due to concerns about the death penalty in local trials. Evidence has, however, been shared with third parties, including western governments prosecuting ISIS fighters.

As per UN Resolution 2379, the evidence obtained by the UN team is to be used “before national courts, and complementing investigations being carried out by the Iraqi authorities or investigations carried out by authorities in third countries at their request”.

Dr Al Saltlawi insisted that all evidence “must be provided, whether those acquired by the team or those received from Iraq and developed using advanced technology, handing over all this evidence to the Iraqi government to be used before Iraqi courts”.

Iraq has refused to extend the mandate of the Unitad beyond September 2024 as Baghdad and the mission have been unable to resolve the impasse over the death penalty.

Robert Wood, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, underscored the implications of a “hasty and premature” closure of Unitad as Iraq continues its “transition from conflict to stability and prosperity”.

And Christian Ritscher, special adviser and head of the investigative team said the international community “must ensure that those who spoke up against ISIS crimes are not let down or left behind”.

“We must ensure their security and address the trauma they suffered,” he said. “We must ensure that those who have not spoken up yet can do so in a safe and welcoming forum.”

Updated: December 04, 2023, 7:47 PM