Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council is expected to review the mandate of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD), which expires on 21 September.
Key Recent Developments
UNITAD was set up through resolution 2379 of 21 September 2017 for an initial period of two years, following a request by the Iraqi government. The Council had asked the Secretary-General to establish an investigative team to support Iraqi domestic efforts to hold the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) accountable for crimes it committed in the country “by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”. Additionally, UNITAD is responsible for promoting accountability globally for atrocity crimes committed by ISIL in order to counter ISIL narratives that have led people to join the terrorist group. According to resolution 2379, UNITAD is to be “impartial, independent, and credible”, operating within its terms of reference, the UN Charter, UN best practices and relevant international law including international human rights law. The investigative team has an assessed budget of around $19.5 million for 2019; additionally, it relies on voluntary contributions made to the trust fund established by resolution 2379 as well as in-kind contributions.
On 31 May 2018, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Karim Asad Ahmad Khan as Special Adviser and head of UNITAD. UNITAD formally began its work on 20 August 2018, and in line with the 90-day deadline set out in resolution 2379, the Special Adviser’s first report was published on 16 November 2018. The resolution further set a 180-day reporting cycle for subsequent reports and asked the Special Adviser to present his reports to the Council. Khan’s first briefing took place on 4 December 2018, followed by a second briefing on 15 July.
UNITAD’s implementation strategy entails three initial areas for investigation: attacks committed by ISIL against the Yazidi community in the Sinjar district in August 2014, crimes committed by ISIL in Mosul between 2014 and 2016, and the mass killing of unarmed Iraqi air force cadets from Tikrit Air Academy (also known as “Camp Speicher”) in June 2014. UNITAD’s investigations are focused on those ISIL members who bear the greatest responsibility among the leadership as well as regional and mid-level commanders.
During the Council’s 28-29 June visiting mission to Kuwait and Iraq, members met with the Special Adviser and his team. In a 30 June press statement on the trip, Council members underscored their support for UNITAD.
On 28 August, the Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, briefed the Council on the most recent developments in the situation in Iraq and on the two latest Secretary-General’s reports—on UNAMI and on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 12 August, the Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, released a statement expressing serious concern over the situation of seven French nationals awaiting execution in Iraq on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” following their arrest by the Syrian Democratic Forces and subsequent transfer to Iraq in February “at the alleged request of the French Government or with its suspected involvement”, the statement said. “In these circumstances, the transfer of persons to Iraq for prosecution is illegal”, Callamard said, adding that she was “particularly disturbed by allegations that France may have had a role in this transfer, given the risk involved of torture and unfair trials and that they would likely face the death penalty”.
Issues and Options
The immediate issue for the Council is the review of UNITAD’s mandate. If the government of Iraq continues to support UNITAD in its current form and requests its extension, an option for the Council would be to renew UNITAD without changes.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members generally support UNITAD; the same seems to remain true for Iraq. Some members indicated during Khan’s 15 July briefing their continued concern about the possibility that evidence shared by the investigative team might be used in criminal proceedings in which capital punishment could be imposed. Other members stressed that this falls under Iraq’s sovereignty, a viewpoint shared by Iraq. A few members mentioned the issue of how and where to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters currently in Iraq. Some members also pointed out that the international crimes that UNITAD is mandated to investigate are not incorporated into the domestic legal system of Iraq and are currently prosecuted as terrorist crimes.
The US is the penholder on Iraq issues in general; the UK is the penholder on Iraq-Kuwait issues and UNITAD. Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland) is the chair of the 1518 Iraq Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON IRAQ
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 September 2017S/RES/2379||This resolution established an investigative team tasked with collecting, storing and preserving evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq.|
|30 August 2019S/2019/660||This was on UNAMI.|
|30 August 2019S/2019/632||This was the 23rd report on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives|
|Security Council Letters|
|17 May 2019S/2019/407||This was the second report of the Special Adviser and head of UNITAD.|
|15 November 2018S/2018/1031||This letter transmitted the first report of the Special Adviser and head of the UN Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh (UNITAD).|
|15 August 2018S/2018/773||This was a letter from the Secretary-General, notifying the Council that the Investigative Team on Iraq/ISIL accountability will begin its work on 20 August 2018.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 July 2019S/PV.8573||This was the Council’s second briefing by Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, the Special Adviser and head of UNITAD.|
|11 July 2019S/PV.8571||This was a briefing on the Security Council’s visiting mission to Kuwait and Iraq.|
|4 December 2018S/PV.8412||This was the Council’s first-ever briefing by Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, the Special Adviser and head of the UN Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh (UNITAD).|
|30 August 2019S/PV.8052||This was the adoption of resolution 2379.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|30 June 2019SC/13869||This was on the Council’s 28-29 June visiting mission to Kuwait and Iraq.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|28 June 2019SC/13868||This was a press release on the removal of 13 entities from the sanctions list.|