Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 12, 2021
Thank you to the Permanent Missions of Iraq, the UK, the UAE, and the Netherlands for co-sponsoring and hosting this event. And thank you, Special Adviser Khan, for all your help. As you prepare to transition to serve as the next chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, we are thankful to have had your expert leadership steering UNITAD toward success. Thank you, again. And a special thank you to all of our panelists for sharing your insights and moving presentations. The United States is proud to co-sponsor today’s event.
Today’s discussion will advance accountability for the victims and survivors of atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq, including crimes against the Yezidis. Our honored speakers demonstrated the imperative of justice, and the enduring desire by survivors, the Iraqi government, and the international community, for accountability. And I want to especially thank Ms. Murad. You displayed tremendous courage in sharing your story with the world. Your bravery and ability to transform your personal pain into a call for collective, global action, will help hold perpetrators of atrocity crimes accountable, particularly those involved in sexual violence in conflict.
In 2016, the State Department determined that ISIS was responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in areas under its control. So, we partnered with the Government of Iraq and the Security Council to establish UNITAD to support domestic efforts to hold members of ISIS accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence of atrocity crimes in Iraq. The United States has provided nearly $9 million to UNITAD since its inception to help these vital efforts.
As we heard today, holding ISIS criminally accountable requires innovative approaches and collaboration among national, international, non-governmental, and private sector actors. We commend all those involved for developing a model to strengthen atrocity crime investigations. That includes building trusted relationships with impacted communities, supporting documentation efforts through NGOs, using creative technologies, and providing psycho-social assistance. These investigations built a strong evidentiary foundation to use in criminal prosecutions, nationally, and internationally.
The United States has encouraged Iraq to pass national legislation to codify atrocity crimes, so that ISIS members can be prosecuted for the atrocity crimes they have committed, rather than only for their membership in a terrorist organization or other terrorism offenses. After all, the harms depicted in the video and described in our discussions are not about belonging to a group but about actually committing terrible atrocities. They require a full accounting. Every victim deserves to tell their story in a court of law. Criminal prosecutions are part of a holistic approach to secure full justice for victims and survivors, including through providing psycho-social assistance.
We hope that the exhumations of mass grave sites at Kocho village – as painful as they are – provided some measure of peace. The United States proudly supports this process, both as an affirmation of the dignity of victims and our respect for the community’s traditions, and as a reminder of the importance of survivors being able to clarify the fate of their loved ones. As we heard on this panel and saw in that moving video, investigating these crimes – including those committed against the Yezidis, Turkmen, and Christians – also emphasizes the importance of inclusivity, pluralism, and the rights of all.
What we’ve discussed today is not only an effort to punish those who are responsible, and vindicate the rights of victims. It’s also a commitment to an inclusive, peaceful, and democratic Iraq. So, thank you to everyone for working to hold ISIS accountable for its atrocities, and for your commitment to building a better future for Iraq.
Thank you very much.