Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – The international community has reached a “turning point” in pursuing justice for atrocities committed by the ISIL terrorist group in Iraq, the new head of a special UN investigative team told the Security Council in New York on Thursday.
Delivering his first briefing to ambassadors, Special Adviser Christian Ritscher said evidence collected so far is capable of supporting trials.
“Through our effective engagement with survivors and witnesses, and by exploiting the extensive digital fingerprints left behind by its members in battlefield evidence, we can already tie the actions of individuals to the commission of these crimes,” he said.
The team, known as UNITAD, works to secure evidence of ISIL’s crimes against various Iraqi communities, which include mass executions and use of chemical and biological weapons, committed during its reign of terror from June 2014 to December 2017.
“Knowing from experience the challenges national authorities face in pursuing justice for these crimes, I believe we now stand at a turning point, a moment of perhaps unexpected hope,” Mr. Ritscher told the Council.
“We can now envision a new landscape in which those who believed themselves to be out of reach of justice are held accountable in a court of law.”
Mr. Ritscher reported on recent activities carried out by UNITAD and Iraqi authorities to exhume bodies from a mass grave outside the city of Mosul, located in the north of the country.
The victims were executed by ISIL at Badush Central Prison in June 2014. They were separated based on their religion and at least a thousand predominantly Shia prisoners were killed.
Analysis of digital, documentary, testimonial and forensic evidence, including internal ISIL documents, has led to the identification of several individual ISIL members responsible for these crimes.
Having finalized the initial case-brief, Mr. Ritscher said the conclusion is these actions constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.