Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 26, 2019


Thank you, Madam President and thank you, Special Advisor Khan, for being with us in person today.

I want to begin my remarks by paying tribute to the thirteen French soldiers who died overnight in a helicopter accident in Mali. Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones as they mourn the loss of those most precious to them. We appreciate your update on UNITAD’s collection of evidence of the atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq, as well as your efforts to fully staff UNITAD’s team with international Iraqi experts.

The world witnessed ISIS target innocent Iraqis, including diverse ethnic and religious communities, in barbaric attacks. Lest we forget, ISIS is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. It desecrated churches and mosques and other houses of worship. It drove millions of Iraqis from their homes. It held hundreds of women as slaves, subjecting them to brutal assault.

These are acts of pure evil, and as a body dedicated to maintaining international peace and security, it is our solemn responsibility to speak the truth about what ISIS did, to document this truth, and to answer the prayer for justice for those whose lives have been turned upside down by ISIS. This is what makes UNITAD’s work so important. With the support of the Iraqi government, UNITAD is moving quickly, carefully, and determinedly to create a detailed record of ISIS appalling criminality against Iraqis of all faiths.
Kachi, in this season, dedicated to gratitude and generosity as Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, I cannot express to you how very brave your testimony was with us today. And, what a stark reminder that we cannot waver in our pursuit of justice. While nothing this Council does will replace your family, but by holding criminals to account for their heinous actions, justice can be secured for victims and their loved ones. The work of UNITAD aims to do just that for Kachi, his family, and so many Iraqis who have endured experiences like this.

In September, the Security Council unanimously endorsed UNITAD’s one-year mandate renewal with the support of the Government of Iraq. This mandate will provide accountability and, we hope, a measure for healing for all Iraqis.

A crucial step that several member states are taking in support of UNITAD’s mandate involves voluntary contributions. The United States has contributed three million dollars in support of UNITAD’s field-based activities over the past year, including mass grave excavations in Sinjar, Mosul, and Tikrit. Thanks in part to this contribution, UNITAD has assisted Iraqi national authorities in excavating seventeen mass graves near the village of Kojo, which is of special significance to Iraq’s Yezidi community.

We thank our partners from the United Kingdom, Germany, Qatar, Cyprus, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and Uganda, for their voluntary contributions, and we urge other Member States to do their part to show the international community’s support for the pursuit of justice on behalf of all the victims in Iraq – Yezidis, Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and many, many more who have suffered at the hands of ISIS.

UNITAD’s continued cooperation and coordination with Iraq’s political, judicial, religious, and societal leaders is essential for the successful mandate implementation. For example, utilizing existing evidence held by Iraqi authorities greatly improved the team’s ability to pursue its mandate this past year. In return, UNITAD is providing technical support to Iraqi authorities for mass grave excavations, DNA analysis, and the archiving of evidence documenting atrocities committed by ISIS.

Additionally, UNITAD has demonstrated the value of its work by directly supporting third-country criminal proceedings against members of ISIS. This is an early indicator that UNITAD will successfully use its current work in future prosecutions, including those in Iraq.

Fellow Council members, when we witness actions that can only be described as evil, it is our responsibility to name it for what it is; it’s hell on earth. And we need to condemn it. But that is not enough. We must also be clear and forceful in stating that no perpetrator will ever be above the law; that we will be relentless in the pursuit of justice for the victims of ISIS; and that we will never fail to live up to our duty to fight for the dignity of all people, most especially the weak and the vulnerable.

As Special Advisor Khan powerfully just stated, this Council carries a heavy responsibility to ensure the cries, tears, and the suffering of the victims, including those in Duhok and across Iraq, are met with powerful action. We again thank the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government for their support of UNITAD’s mandate, and we commit today to work with all the Council members to ensure the mandate is fulfilled swiftly and effectively.

Thank you, Madam President.