UN Investigative Team Compiles Evidence
This effort of the UN Investigative team comes in the wake of the militant group’s occupation of approximately one-third of Iraq in 2014.
The UN investigative team, led by Christian Ritscher, is also focusing on documenting the gender-based violence and crimes against various religious and ethnic groups perpetrated by IS, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis, AP News reported.
Ritscher addressed the UN Security Council, highlighting the lasting impact of a chemical attack on the mainly Shia Turkmen town of Taza Khurmatu in March 2016. The attack, believed to be the first use of chemical weapons by IS, targeted residential areas and agricultural fields.
Over 6,000 residents received treatment for injuries, and sadly, two children lost their lives shortly after exposure. Many survivors continue to suffer from chronic effects stemming from the attack.
The UN investigative team has made the investigation of IS’s chemical weapons a top priority. Ritscher emphasized that IS weaponized various chemical agents, employing them in chemical rockets, mortars, and improvised explosive devices near Taza Khurmatu.
Through their investigation, the UN investigative team has gained specialized insight and analysis of the munitions and materials recovered from the town. They have also uncovered significant volumes of battlefield evidence, including payroll records and correspondence, which have aided in identifying persons of interest and establishing links to potential senior IS members.
Although the group declared a self-styled caliphate and seized control of Iraqi cities and territories in 2014, IS was officially declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 after a protracted battle.
However, sleeper cells of the organization continue to carry out attacks in various parts of the country.
UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes
The UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes committed by the Islamic State group (UNITAD), led by Ritscher, was established by the Security Council in 2017 to gather evidence that could hold IS perpetrators accountable in trials.
UNITAD has collaborated closely with Iraqi judicial officials throughout its work. Their efforts have resulted in the digitization of a staggering 8 million pages of IS documents held by Iraqi authorities, including Kurdish officials.
To consolidate this evidence, UNITAD is establishing a central archive that will serve as the unified repository of all digitized evidence against IS.
Moreover, UNITAD is prioritizing the investigation of “persons of interest” residing in other countries. Currently, the UN investigative team is supporting criminal proceedings against alleged IS members and supporters in 17 different nations.
Ritscher and the UN investigative team reassured the Security Council that evidence on IS crimes in Iraq is abundant, as the group operated as a large-scale bureaucracy that meticulously documented its activities.