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Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at UNSC Briefing on UNITAD

Thank you Mr President and thank you Karim for your report and briefing today. Before I begin my statement, and as this is your last briefing to the Council in this role, I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge your service and leadership, Karim, over the past three years. 


I would also like to thank Nadia Murad for her powerful briefing this morning. As she did when she advocated for the creation of UNITAD , you  again eloquently set out the very real need that survivors of ISIL’s crimes, in getting for justice and accountability. This is the reason we really must ensure that evidence of atrocity crimes is preserved and your courageous testimony today is central to that task.


In spite of the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, it is clear from today’s briefing that UNITAD’s work has continued apace with the completion of initial case briefs on its two core investigative priorities – the attacks against Yazidi in the Sinjar region and the mass killings at the Tikrit Air Academy. I want to commend the Team’s use of innovative technologies to gather and analyse evidence, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and translation.


Tangible evidence of the results of these efforts, and the cooperation between UNITAD and the Iraqi authorities can be seen in the important work which led to the excavation of mass grave sites and the identification and return of the remains of 103 Yazidis reflecting the wishes of the Yazidi community itself. Faced with this horrific evidence of ISIL’s crimes, we want to acknowledge the work done by the Team and the Iraqi authorities in adopting a victim and survivor-centered approach.


We know that accountability is essential to heal the wounds of conflict and build sustainable peace. However, the manner in which we pursue justice is also important.


We welcomed the detail provided in the most recent report on the Team’s approach to the investigation of sexual and gender-based crimes and the terrible crimes against children. It is noteworthy that in spite of restrictions on the Team’s presence in Iraq, the Gender Crimes and Children Unit has commenced an investigation on ISIL crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, conducted interviews with survivors of sexual violence and also appointed focal points within field investigations units.  We strongly support UNITAD’s work to enhance the provision of psychosocial support to survivors and witnesses, in particular women and children.


Mr President,


When it comes to conflict-related sexual violence, truth telling, lifting stigma and documenting crimes are critical. However, it is essential that we move from evidence-gathering to prosecution and conviction of crimes of sexual violence committed by ISIL, and to real accountability. Ms Murad, Nadia, you and all survivors deserve nothing less.


We also welcome the Yazidi Female Survivors Law introduced in recent weeks, and its inclusion of Turkmen, Christian, Shabak and other survivors of atrocity crimes. We look forward to full implementation of this landmark law by delivering on reparations for survivors.


We commend the support provided by UNITAD to the Iraqi authorities to develop a domestic legislative framework that would enable the domestic prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. We have also noted the training provided by UNITAD, including to the Iraqi judiciary to assist in the development of case-files against ISIL for atrocity crimes. We strongly urge the continuation of this important work.


We also welcome further work to develop a means of sharing evidence that complies with UN policies and best practice, for use in fair and independent criminal proceedings, consistent with applicable international law including international human rights law. In this regard, I want to recall Ireland’s unequivocal opposition to the use of the death penalty in all cases and circumstances. 


We look forward to engaging with colleagues on the Council ahead of the renewal of UNITAD’s mandate in September and once again, wish to pay particular tribute to your Team, its important work and the excellent brief we received today.

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