Episode 103 – The End of UNITAD with Christian Ritscher

Christian Ritscher

For the third episode in our series on the UN investigative mechanisms we look at UNITAD, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh.

UNITAD works just in Iraq and deals with crimes by one non-state-armed-actor – known variously as Islamic State(IS), ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh.

The mechanism covers IS crimes which include  “executions, torture, amputations, ethno-sectarian attacks, rape and sexual slavery imposed on women and girls”, according to their website. 

Thousands of children who were victims, witnesses and forced perpetrators in IS crimes. Already more than 200 mass graves connected to IS have been found in Iraq.

We sat down with UNITAD head Christian Ritscher in the final days of his mandate. He has since been succeeded by Ana Peyro Llopis.

Christian told us about wrapping up the UNITAD mission after its mandate was not renewed and where the vast amounts of evidence and testimonies that he and his predecessors collected can go. We also discussed how UNITAD shows what can be achieved when the United Nations Security Council that set it up reaches an agreement. At the same time, he highlighted the limitations of their mandate and of working closely with the national justice mechanisms. As UNITAD is based in Bagdad, Christian also talked about their relationship with the Iraqi government and the civil society there.

We asked about the ten-year anniversary of the Yazidi genocide. Christian highlighted what has been achieved so far in terms of justice for Yazidis – like the landmark genocide conviction for an ISIS member – and what next steps are possible. And he also discussed UNITAD’s special sexual and gender-based crimes unit.

For those interested in Iraq, Christian suggests exploring also its beautiful nature and ancient history. He read many tourist guides and visited some of the archaeological sites with the local guides.