Government says UN mission 'no longer needed'

Termination of UNITAD mandate sparks accountability concerns

BAGHDAD — Farhad Alaaldin, the prime minister’s adviser on foreign relations, said Baghdad’s stance is that the UN team investigating ISIS crimes is no longer needed from Iraq’s perspective, criticizing the team’s lack of successful cooperation with Iraqi authorities. On the other side, Christian Ritscher, the head of the investigative team, said the United Nations mission was forced to end its work prematurely before finishing the investigations, according to Reuters reports.

The United Nations mission, initiated in 2017 to help Iraq investigate the Islamic State’s allegations of genocide and war crimes, is coming to an early close amid growing tensions with the Iraqi government. The closure happens nearly ten years after the extremist group’s onslaught through Syria and Iraq, a period during which many victims, now displaced in camps, still await justice.

Ritscher articulated the premature conclusion of the mission, stating, “Is the work done? Not yet, and that’s very clear.” He further explained the need for additional time, highlighting that “If we set a final deadline in September 2024, we will not have completed the investigations” or other crucial initiatives like establishing a central archive for millions of pieces of evidence.

Critics argue that Iraq’s decision to terminate the mission’s operations will hinder further progress in holding ISIS members accountable. The UNITAD team’s efforts have already facilitated at least three convictions related to genocide and other international crimes in Germany and Portugal. These critiques raise doubts about Iraq’s commitment to prosecuting such crimes within its own borders.

Alaaldin told Reuters, “There is no longer a need for the investigative team from Baghdad’s point of view, and it has not cooperated successfully with Iraqi authorities.” He also mentioned the mission’s failure to comply with repeated requests for evidence sharing, which must now be addressed before the operation concludes.