What's In Blue

Posted Tue 11 May 2021

Arria-formula Meeting on Da’esh/ISIL Accountability

Tomorrow (12 May) at 3 pm EST, members of the Security Council are expected to convene in person for an Arria-formula meeting entitled “Delivering Accountability through Innovation and Partnership: Harnessing Technology to deliver justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”. The meeting will apparently focus on the work of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) to draw lessons on how technology can support accountability for international crimes.

The anticipated briefers are Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad; Amal Clooney, Counsel for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) victims; Daryn Reicherter, Director of the Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Laboratory at Stanford University; and Justin Spelhaug, Vice-President, Tech for Social Impact Group at Microsoft Corporation. The meeting is being co-hosted by the UK (the penholder on UNITAD), Iraq and the US and co-sponsored by the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The co-hosts and co-sponsors will provide opening remarks, followed by the briefers and Council members. Member states not on the Council may be able to speak as well, in line with meeting safety protocols. The meeting is expected to be broadcast on UNTV.

For background on UNITAD, please refer to our 7 May What’s in Blue story.

According to the concept note prepared by the co-organisers, the objective of tomorrow’s meeting is to draw on the example of UNITAD in investigating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to discuss how innovation and technology can support such efforts. The meeting will also address how a trauma-informed approach to engaging survivors and witnesses can strengthen their ability to share their experiences.

In addition to its assessed budget, UNITAD relies on voluntary contributions made to a trust fund. The Netherlands and the UAE have earmarked their contributions to the trust fund for psycho-social support for witnesses and the investigation of sexual and gender-based crimes, respectively.

In his sixth report to the Council (S/2021/419), the Special Adviser and head of UNITAD describes the Zeteo project, which will support the analysis of multimedia files for relevant faces, locations and objects. It will also allow for the transcription into English of video evidence. The project combines elements such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and Microsoft cognitive services.

In his 10 May briefing to the Council, Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, Special Adviser and head of UNITAD, emphasised that such technology supported UNITAD’s conclusion that “there is clear and convincing evidence that the crimes against the Yazidi people clearly constituted genocide”.

The concept note outlines several guiding questions for tomorrow’s meeting, including: how investigative challenges can be addressed by technological advances, how psycho-social support can be improved so that survivors and witnesses of sexual and gender-based crimes can engage in accountability processes, and what lessons UNITAD’s experiences can provide in that regard.