Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, the Special Adviser and head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD). His third report to the Council is due in November. The Secretary-General’s reports on the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, are also due in November.
UNITAD’s mandate expires on 21 September 2020. UNAMI’s mandate expires on 31 May 2020.
Key Recent Developments
On 20 September, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2490, renewing the mandate of UNITAD until 21 September 2020, as requested by the Iraqi government. The resolution further requested the Special Adviser and head of UNITAD “to continue to submit and present reports to the Council on the team’s activities, every 180 days”.
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, including the provision of expert personnel. UNITAD’s overall staff stands at around 100 members. Support for the work of UNITAD is part of UNAMI’s mandate.
On 31 May 2018, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Karim Asad Ahmad Khan as Special Adviser and head of UNITAD. The investigative team 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 these reports to the Council. Khan’s first briefing took place on 4 December 2018, followed by a second briefing on 15 July. 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.
UNITAD’s implementation strategy entails three initial areas for investigation, with monthly benchmarks for progress. Those areas are: 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 focusing on those ISIL members who bear the greatest responsibility among the leadership as well as regional and mid-level commanders. If extra-budgetary funding increases, UNITAD expects to add more areas for investigation.
Resolution 2379 refers to the possibility of evidence collected by the investigative team complementing “investigations carried out by authorities in third countries at their request”. UNITAD is currently supporting cases in Finland, France, and Germany.
The international crimes UNITAD is mandated to investigate are not yet incorporated into Iraq’s domestic legal system and are prosecuted as terrorist crimes. Iraq is currently working on legislation establishing a tribunal for the prosecution of ISIL for international crimes.
Issues and Options
After extending its mandate for another year in September, the Council will keep monitoring UNITAD’s activities closely. An option for Council members would be to hold consultations following Khan’s briefing in order to have a more interactive and frank discussion with him.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are generally supportive of UNITAD, and the negotiations on UNITAD’s mandate renewal were reportedly uncontentious. The Iraqi government also appears supportive, as shown by its request to extend UNITAD’s mandate. Some members continue to be concerned about the possibility that evidence shared by UNITAD might be used in criminal proceedings in which capital punishment could be imposed. Other members stress that this matter falls under Iraq’s sovereignty, a viewpoint shared by Iraq. Another issue frequently raised by members is how and where to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters currently in Iraq.
The UK is the penholder on UNITAD.
UN DOCUMENTS ON IRAQ
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 September 2019S/RES/2490||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNITAD until 21 September 2020.|
|21 September 2017S/RES/2379||This resolution established an investigative team tasked with collecting, storing and preserving evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|20 September 2019S/PV.8624||The Council unanimously adopted resolution 2490, renewing the mandate of UNITAD until 21 September 2020.|
|15 July 2019S/PV.8573||This was the Council’s second briefing by Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, the Special Adviser and head of UNITAD.|
|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).|
|21 September 2017S/PV.8052||This was the adoption of resolution 2379.|
|Security Council Letters|
|19 September 2019S/2019/760||This transmitted a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, requesting the extension of UNITAD’s mandate until 21 September 2020.|
|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.|
|9 February 2018S/2018/118||This was a letter from the Secretary-General to the Council containing the terms of reference for the investigative team to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving and storing evidence of war crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq.|