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

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 4, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. And let me also repeat in the open chamber our congratulations to Côte d’Ivoire on assuming the presidency of the Council and our thanks and congratulations to China for the excellent job they did in November with the presidency. Mr. President – Special Adviser Khan, congratulations on your appointment, and thank you for being here in person today to brief the Security Council for the first time. The United States looks forward to working closely with you to fulfill UNITAD’s critical mandate.

Mr. President, last year, the Government of Iraq asked for assistance in its efforts to hold members of ISIS accountable for atrocities. Knowing how pivotal a period it was in Iraq’s rich history, Council members quickly responded by unanimously adopting Resolution 2379.

History has shown that swift and effective evidence collection after atrocities are perpetrated is critical to the ability to recover and move forward. The recent discovery of over 200 mass graves holding as many as 12,000 bodies in Iraq makes today’s discussion in the Security Council all the more important.

Mr. President, I am pleased to announce today that the United States intends to commit $2 million to support UNITAD’s efforts. And we thank others who have already contributed, including the United Kingdom, Qatar, and the Netherlands, and call on other countries to swiftly support UNITAD as the team begins to carry out its mandate.

Of course, money alone will not guarantee effective evidence collection. We urge Iraq’s new government to continue working closely with UNITAD as well. Special Adviser Khan’s meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Mahdi is an important step in the beginning of this conversation. No segment of Iraqi society has escaped ISIS’s terror, and it is important to develop a balanced and accurate account of events. This will give voice to all Iraqis, including members of all Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups, who have been subjected to unspeakable crimes.

The appointment of Iraqi experts to the UNITAD team working alongside international experts will be critical to UNITAD’s success. At the same time, the Government of Iraq will need to give UNITAD the space to operate effectively. Independence and impartiality are essential to the team’s credibility moving forward.

In keeping with the Secretary-General’s efforts to increase coherence and collaboration across the UN system, it will also be essential that UNITAD work closely with UNAMI and other relevant UN offices and civil society groups to coordinate efforts on the ground.

UNITAD’s efforts must be matched by measures to protect and support victim’s families and survivors of the atrocious crimes. Families and survivors still live with trauma from their appalling experiences.

Mr. President, there is much to be optimistic about in Iraq today. We see Iraq’s future in Nadia Murad, whose foundation Nadia’s Initiative is dedicated to helping women and children victimized by genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking. Through her efforts, Nadia has helped hundreds of Iraqi women and children heal and rebuild their lives and has set an example to many Iraqis who are following her lead. She has had an immeasurable impact on the global conversation to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The United States congratulates her on being awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Nadia is one of many Iraqis who bravely called on the Security Council to come together and unanimously adopt Security Council Resolution 2379. Special Adviser Khan, your attendance at Nadia’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is important illustration of the UN’s new role to seek justice for Nadia and many Iraqis like her.

Mr. President, we again thank the Government of Iraq and UNITAD for taking important steps toward demonstrating that justice is never beyond reach. ISIS will once and for all be held accountable for its many crimes against the Iraqi people.

I thank you.