The Security Council on Friday voted unanimously to end, a year from now, a UN probe into activities of ISIS extremists in Iraq. The vote came at the request of the Iraqi government.
The UK-sponsored resolution noted that Baghdad also asked that UN investigators hand over evidence they have gathered so far to the government, so that Iraqi authorities can pursue ISIS members’ accountability, as well as that of those who assisted and financed “this terrorist organization.”
The Security Council in September 2017 set up the investigative team — also at Iraq’s request — to collect evidence against ISIS members to be used in trials.
The AP quoted Christian Ritscher, the head of the team, telling the council in June that its investigators were compiling evidence on the development and use of chemical weapons by ISIS extremists and advancing their documentation on the militant group’s gender-based violence and crimes against children, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Yazidis.
ISIS seized about a third of Iraq in 2014, along with a large swath of territory in Syria, and declared a self-styled caliphate across the area. It was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 following a three-year battle. However, ISIS sleeper cells continue to stage attacks to this day in both Iraq and Syria.
Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council that the UN team has supported the excavation of mass graves, facilitated the return of remains to the families of victims, and worked closely with Iraqi judges and prosecutors, particularly on collecting evidence.
“It has provided survivors, including of sexual and gender-based violence, with opportunities to provide testimony safely with their rights fully respected,” she said. “And it has enabled psychosocial treatment in partnership with Iraq’s Ministry of Health, providing real impact for survivors.”
The resolution asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit a report by Jan. 15 on recommendations to implement Iraq’s request for evidence obtained by the UN team. The Security Council also asks that the team, with approval of Iraq's government, determine how evidence can be shared with other countries and to inform Baghdad about any evidence already given to third countries.
Woodward said Britain will work with the Iraqi government to continue the UN team's “legacy, both in Iraq and around the world.”
On Wednesday, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who was taken by ISIS militants and became a sexual slave, and her high-profile human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, issued a statement highlighting their support for the team's mission and expressing concern that its mandate might not be renewed.
They said in a joint statement that evidence and testimonies gathered by the team “demonstrated the depth" of ISIS brutality — not only against the Yazidis but also against other minorities.
Murad and Clooney appealed for the extension of the team's mandate to preserve evidence for use in future criminal proceedings and to build “Iraq’s capacity in international crimes investigations and prosecutions.”