Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Maria Zabolotskaya at UNSC briefing on the report of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by ISIL in Iraq (UNITAD)


Let me start by thanking the Republic of Mozambique for the successful stewardship of the Security Council in May. We welcome the Republic of Korea as President of the Council. We also welcome the Republic of Iraq to this meeting.


We welcome Ms. A.Llopis as Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) and thank her for her informative briefing. We also appreciate her courage in deciding to lead the Team now, after years of imitation of diligent activity under the leadership of the “brilliant” men who briefed this Council on many occasions. Now the time has come to actually fulfil the mandate of UNITAD and complete its work. We hope that, under the leadership of Ms.Llopis, UNITAD will make every effort to come closer to fulfilling its main task - to hand over to Iraq absolutely all the evidence that was collected during its work. We realize that this is not an easy task, and not only because the Team is in its final lap on the road to closure. I mean systemic failures that were made by the previous management of the Team. We will come back to this issue.

The Russian Federation attaches great importance to the problem of bringing terrorists to justice. In that regard, we are convinced that the main role should be played by the authorities and judicial bodies of states where militants committed their crimes. This is particularly relevant to countries such as Iraq, where the actions of terrorists have had catastrophic consequences throughout the country.

In this context, we continue to monitor UNITAD’s fulfilment of its mandate to support national efforts to collect, preserve and secure evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq, in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 2379 and 2697 and the Terms of Reference endorsed by the Council.

My delegation would like to draw attention to a technical but important detail - the need to bring the name of the terrorist group ISIL in UNITAD documents and on relevant websites into line with Security Council resolution 2379, which established the Investigation Team. Arbitrary renaming of terrorist entities should not take place, especially in light of their listings in national legal systems.

Now back to the heart of the matter. It was only in the seventh year of UNITAD's work that positive momentum in cooperation with the Iraqi authorities began to emerge. Before that, we had been pushing for years to have former adviser K. Khan ensure transparency in the work of the group. However, he essentially kept the Council in the dark and misled it, justifying his inaction with various excuses - a dangerous environment, the secrecy of the investigation, the absence of national legislation, Baghdad's alleged lack of cooperation. As it turns out now, instead of actually collecting evidence of criminal activity of ISIL, K.Khan was mainly engaged in obtaining information from the Iraqi authorities themselves. He provided access of Western countries to the evidence collected by UNITAD. He not only failed to have Iraq’s permission, but actually did the whole thing in secret from the host country. What’s more, he denied Iraqi’s such access.

We have regularly reminded both Mr. K. Khan and Mr. K. Ritscher that UNITAD was not established by the Security Council under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Its task is to provide technical assistance to the Iraqi authorities in bringing to justice for the crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq. The Team did not have the task of replacing national justice and was not entitled to try to impose any decisions on Baghdad.

We are convinced that if UNITAD, from the very beginning of its activities, had strictly and conscientiously observed the mandate entrusted to it, actively obtained evidence of ISIL crimes and supported the national efforts of Iraq's law enforcement and judicial authorities by providing them with all the necessary evidence in full, the Iraqi judicial system would have already completed the process of bringing terrorists to justice. This, unfortunately, has not happened.

The original point was that UNITAD should have worked hand in hand with Iraqi law enforcement agencies, assisting them with analysis and technical support in their investigative activities, rather than secretly collecting materials that, as we understand, in many cases cannot even be considered evidence because of the lack of compliance with elementary procedural norms. As a result, the only real evidence that UNITAD has to date is the evidence that the Team received from the Iraqis themselves.

Therefore, years of sabotage by UNITAD's leadership of its key mandate have resulted in thousands of ISIL fighters not being punished. Many of them have since escaped from Iraq and fled to other countries. Such dubious results undermine the credibility not only of UNITAD but also of the institute of technical assistance in criminal justice.

For us, the measure of UNITAD’s success on the key aspect of its mandate has been the number of cases in Iraqi national jurisdiction based on evidence collected and systematized by the Team. Unfortunately, to date, after seven years of UNITAD’s work, the number of such cases is zero. This means that UNITAD has failed in its primary task. UNITAD is less than three months away from completing its mandate. The question arises, who will be held accountable for such poor mandate implementation? The former leaders have already left from their posts, apparently unwilling to take responsibility for the results of the work. It appears that one can gain political capital through empty briefings to the Security Council and then move on to more interesting assignments.

The current leadership should make every effort to maximize its support for the launching of the Iraqi trials now, before the “curtain falls” for UNITAD. To that end, all the materials collected should be handed over to the Iraqi authorities as soon as possible and without preconditions. We trust that this key task will be accomplished in the time remaining before the closure of UNITAD, that is, by 17 September 2024.

The Russian delegation is convinced that the international crimes of ISIL terrorists have no statute of limitations and that all those who were involved in their perpetration must be punished in the Iraqi national judicial system.

Speaking of where to store the collected materials, the answer is clear to us. Paragraph 10 of the UNITAD Terms of Reference approved by the Security Council stipulates that upon conclusion of the Investigative Team’s mandate, the United Nations and the Government of Iraq shall agree upon arrangements regarding the custody of original versions of the evidence and materials collected, preserved and stored by the Investigative Team in Iraq, as well as any materials and analyses produced by UNITAD. 

Thus, we assume that after UNITAD’s closure, issues of the preservation of collected materials will be resolved bilaterally between the UN and the Iraqi authorities, with full respect for Iraq's sovereignty and jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory.

We must remain mindful that the UN was invited to help. Technical assistance should respect the sovereignty, interests, values, traditions, and specifics (cultural, legal, historical, religious and linguistic) of the host state.

In conclusion, we would also like to say a few words about preserving the legacy of UNITAD. We hope that the full implementation of the mandate will be the Team’s main legacy. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency lately to create “monuments” to various UN mechanisms after they wind down their activities. We do not think this is the right way to spend the United Nations’ budget.

Thank you.

Video of the statement