The United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIS (UNITAD) and the al-Alamain Institute for Graduate Studies recently launched a lecture series in Baghdad aimed at deepening understanding of international criminal law. However, the initiative has been overshadowed by criticism as the UN mission in Iraq draws to a close without a clear plan for the future of gathered evidence or accountability for the Yazidi genocide.
Murad Ismael, co-founder and former executive director of Yazda, an organisation dedicated to supporting the Yazidi community, questioned the impact of UNITAD’s efforts.
“Unitad is giving lectures to I don’t know who. Their mission is about to end and there is no plan whatsoever for accountability for genocide, war crimes & crimes against humanity,” he said on X.
“There is no plan whatsoever for what to do with the evidence that has been collected. There is no plan for trials. The Chief of the mission is lecturing students about mass crimes,” Ismael continued, in a separate tweet.
In September 2023, the UN Security Council announced that the mandate of UNITAD, established to document and ensure accountability for crimes committed by ISIS against Yazidis and other minorities, would only be extended for 12 months at the request of the Iraqi government.
This decision has been met with dismay by the Yazidi community, who see the mission as crucial to achieving justice for the atrocities they have suffered.
UNITAD has been working to collect and preserve evidence of crimes that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by ISIS in Iraq since its establishment by a UN Security Council resolution in 2017. The evidence is intended for use in national courts to complement Iraqi investigations or, if requested, those of third countries.
Despite the criticism, the lecture series, which began with a session on ‘Genocide and Genocidal Intent in International Criminal Investigations’, aims to promote legal scholarship and support Iraq’s pursuit of justice.
Christian Ritscher, Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD, emphasised the importance of the initiative in equipping postgraduate students with the knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of international crimes.
The ongoing lecture series at the al-Alamain Institute covers various topics relevant to international criminal justice and international crimes committed by ISIS. It aims to engage postgraduate students with UNITAD experts and to draw on the national legal expertise of the Institute’s community.
However, the impending end of UNITAD’s mission raises urgent questions about the fate of the evidence collected and the wider implications for efforts to achieve accountability for the victims of the extremist group’s brutality.