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

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 15, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President and thank you, Special Advisor Khan, for being with us in person today, and for your thorough and serious briefing to the Council.

The plight of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities is of critical importance to the United States. We will not waver from holding ISIS accountable for the atrocities it committed against all Iraqis.

The United States remains a strong, committed supporter of UNITAD’s Security Council mandate to collect, store, and preserve evidence of ISIS’s atrocities that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. We are pleased that the Security Council reiterated its unanimous support of UNITAD’s mandate during the Council’s first-ever trip to Iraq last month, where Council members had a chance to engage with Special Adviser Khan and his team.

The United States welcomes the rapid initiation of UNITAD’s critical activities on the ground in Iraq over the past year, and the details you’ve provided us this morning. The recent appointments of Iraqi experts to the UNITAD team working alongside international experts is critical to UNITAD’s success, as demonstrated by the appointment of Deputy Dr. Salama Hasson al-Khafaji, who joins us today, welcome.

The United States contributed $2 million in support of UNITAD’s first exhumation of mass grave sites in Sinjar that took place earlier this year. UNITAD’s access to these sites are vital for the professional and impartial evidence collection of the unimaginable atrocities that Yezidis suffered under ISIS.

We express our thanks to member states that have also stepped up to contribute to UNITAD’s operations, through funding and other support means, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Qatar, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and call on other member states to swiftly support UNITAD in order for the team to collect critical evidence before it is too late.

Of course, money alone will not guarantee effective evidence collection. We welcome the Government of Iraq’s commitment to work closely with UNITAD. Such close cooperation between UNITAD and the Iraqi government is essential for the team’s success as demonstrated by Special Adviser Khan’s frequent meetings with key Iraqi political, religious, and societal leaders over the last year.

We call upon the Government of Iraq to continue to give UNITAD the space to operate effectively. Independence and impartiality are essential to the team’s credibility moving forward.

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 atrocities.

Iraq needs accountability and reconciliation to begin in order to recover from the trauma that ISIS inflicted on the Iraqi people.

In recent weeks, UNITAD has taken the important step of beginning evidence collection in Mosul, once a former ISIS stronghold. UNITAD’s work there will send an important message all Iraqis – including the Sunni community – that the international community has not forgotten the atrocities they too endured.

It is especially important for Iraq to work through a law-based process to hold ISIS perpetrators and collaborators accountable. UNITAD plays a critical role in this effort, including ensuring that exhumations and evidence collection are conducted in accordance with international standards.

We extend our appreciation to the entire UNITAD team for aiming to assure justice is never beyond reach, for the heinous acts ISIS committed.

Thank you, Mr. President.