First, allow me to thank Special Adviser Khan for your comprehensive briefing today, as well as for your outstanding work leading UNITAD over the past three years. Norway is grateful for your service, and looks forward to supporting you in your future role as the next chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.
Let me also thank Ms. Murad for your strong testimony. Your determination and perseverance in demanding justice for victims of ISIL crimes is an inspiration, and a clear call to action that this Council must strive to meet.
Norway is a staunch supporter of UNITAD. The Team’s work to collect, store, and preserve evidence of crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq is crucial to ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims and survivors – prerequisite conditions for sustainable peace with the rule of law at its core.
Norway is encouraged to note several positive developments since the Special Adviser’s previous briefing to the Council. In particular, we were moved by news of the burials of Yazidi victims that took place this February in Kojo, which finally offered loved ones a sliver of closure after years of uncertainty. We commend UNITAD for the support they provided Iraqi authorities in the exhumation and identification processes allowing the burials to take place.
Norway is also pleased to note advancement in UNITAD’s priority investigations. Particularly the completion of case-briefs on crimes committed against the Yazidi community in Sinjar, and on the massacre of unarmed personnel at Tikrit Air Academy.
I would now like to highlight three cross-cutting priorities that Norway considers crucial in UNITAD’s ongoing work:
First: accountability. There can be no justice for victims or survivors, nor reconciliation for the country at large, in the absence of accountability for perpetrators. In this regard, we welcome ongoing engagement between Iraq and UNITAD to resolve outstanding legal obstacles that will allow the Team to share its collected evidence with national authorities in accordance with its terms of reference. We also strongly support the assistance that UNITAD has provided other jurisdictions in their national legal proceedings.
Second: it is imperative that UNITAD continues to apply a survivor-centered approach to its work. Bringing perpetrators to justice, and allowing for the proper burial of loved ones, is one key element supporting survivors’ healing and rehabilitation. Yet we must simultaneously ensure that survivors – especially those providing testimony – have proper access to psychosocial and legal support, and that they are questioned in accordance with established best practices to avoid re-traumatization. In this context, we commend the work of the Team’s Witness Protection and Support Unit.
Third and finally: Drawing upon the high-quality work and expertise that UNITAD has acquired in this field, the Team must maintain a gender- and age-responsive approach across all activities. While horrific crimes were committed against all members of Iraqi society, we know that women and girls were particularly and systematically targeted for sexual and gender-based violence – including sexual slavery and trafficking. Indeed, ISIL carried out these crimes as a deliberate tactic to recruit fighters, instill terror, and traumatize families and communities into submission. Addressing the health, psychological, legal and social aspects of these crimes – including their gendered dimension – must continue to guide UNITAD’s work moving forward. In this context, Norway also welcomes the recent adoption of the Yazidi Female Survivors Law in the Iraqi Council of Representatives.
To conclude, let me once again thank Special Adviser Khan and Ms. Murad for their briefings today, and reiterate my gratitude to the Special Adviser for his dedicated efforts to promote accountability for crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq.