Arria: Special Event on UNITAD Iraq

Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative, Trine Heimerback, at the Arria-formula meeting 'Delivering Accountability through Innovation and Partnership: Harnessing Technology to deliver justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide', 12 May 2021.

 Thank you Chair. Thank you also to today’s briefers for their presentations. They have usefully shown how technological innovation can strengthen accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Investigation of such crimes has evolved rapidly in recent years. As UNITAD’s work illustrates, digital evidence is now a large share of any comprehensive investigation today.

Analyzing such evidence is demanding: it requires dedicated cyber units equipped with the appropriate tools and personnel. Yet, accountability will remain elusive without investment in these capabilities.

Allow me to highlight two specific points, based on the experience of our National Crime Investigation Service’s Cyber Center:

The first regards the speed, and implications of, technological innovation in the field of forensics. Compared for instance with the investigations of crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide – to which Norway contributed – UNITAD operates in a completely different environment. One characterized by new technologies such as cryptocurrency, encrypted messaging platforms, and social media, among others.

Although challenging, this environment also offers significant opportunities: while investigators working on Rwandan cases were constrained by physical searches for witnesses and forensics years after the atrocities had taken place, many of ISIL’s crimes are forever secured as digital evidence.

This may be particularly beneficial to the investigation of conflict-related sexual violence, a type of crime notoriously lacking physical evidence.

Second, we believe that challenging international investigations may benefit from partnerships with the private sector, particularly tech companies. The future lies in drawing upon the efficiency gains made possible by artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology – undertaken in accordance with international human rights law. We commend UNITAD for the trendsetting work they have conducted in this regard.