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ISIS trials in Iraq… a long-term course

Policy

ISIS trials in Iraq… a long-term course

Is it possible to imagine that the ISIS trials could continue for three decades? Yes, it is possible, especially in crimes of an international nature, such as the black record of the terrorist organization.

Five years after Iraq declared its victory over ISIS, new investigations continue to be opened to uncover violations committed by terrorists and bring them to justice.

On December 9, 2017, Iraq declared its victory over ISIS, bringing the so-called “caliphate state” of the terrorist organization to an end in March 2019 in neighboring Syria, after losing its last stronghold in Baghouz to Kurdish forces.

After its sudden rise in 2014, the organization took control of a third of Iraqi territory for a short time, and committed numerous violations against civilians.

With its defeat, the course of the trials of the organization’s elements continues, in a mission that will be long-term, as confirmed by a principal investigator at the United Nations in charge of the file, Christian Richer, in an interview with Agence France-Presse in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” says Richer, the UN special adviser who heads a team tasked with investigating ISIS crimes.

“We have just opened an investigation into the group’s destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq, the destruction of mosques, churches, cultural sites and museums,” explained the head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIS (UNITAD).

He adds, “Additional investigations will be opened in the future, for example regarding the Iraqi capital of ISIS, which it established in Mosul” (north) and occupied by the organization between 2014 and 2017.

for decades to come

The mandate of “UNITAD” gives the team powers to conduct “investigations into the evidence, preserve it and analyze it,” in order to hand it over to “any judicial authority in the world that may need it, from now and for several decades to come,” according to Richer.

He added, “Within 20 or 30 years, it is still possible to try the perpetrators of international crimes. There is no expiration date for that. It could be done in Canada, the Netherlands or Malaysia, and of course in Iraq.”

A long path imposed by the size of the organization’s crime list of “genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” according to Richer, who was a federal prosecutor in Germany and has more than 30 years of experience.

In its latest report presented on Monday to the UN Security Council, the UNITAD team spoke of the organization’s “development and use of chemical and biological weapons.”

The team also investigated the Speicher massacre in northern Iraq, when hundreds of young recruits, “mostly Shiites”, were kidnapped from a military base in June 2014 and then executed, bringing the number of victims to about 1,700.

UNITAD’s work also includes investigating the Badoush prison massacre near Mosul, when hundreds of prisoners, most of them Shiites, were killed. In addition to the crimes against the Yazidi minority, from which the men were executed, and the women were kidnapped and exploited into sexual slavery.

According to Richer, “there may be a court specialized in ISIS crimes in the future that will try the perpetrators of these crimes,” speaking of “ongoing talks” in this regard, without giving further details.

Trials and confessions

Richer stresses that UNITAD can only participate in “fair trials,” that is, “without torture or any element inconsistent with human rights.”

He pointed out that “fair trials are based on evidence and witnesses who can testify before the court, and victims who can tell the whole story and tell the court what happened to them.”

He continued, “This is what we seek, not trials based on confessions.”

In a country with multiple sects and ethnicities that witnessed in its recent history a bloody civil war, Richer refers to the careful work on “reconciliation”, which is “the result of fair investigations and trials in which the victims have a voice.”

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