Support to the Victim and Witness Protection Unit of UNITAD
The UN Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh (UNITAD) aims to support domestic efforts to hold ISIS accountable by collecting, preserving and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Iraq. ISIS occupied large parts of Iraq and committed grave abuses of international human rights law, international criminal law and international humanitarian law - acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The crimes committed against the Yezidi community in Sinjar, northern Iraq represent some of the most egregious and devastating attacks undertaken by ISIS during this period.
UNITAD’s work helps to build criminal cases against former ISIS fighters, ensuring that they do not escape justice. It also contributes to building a clearer picture of what happened in the territories that ISIS controlled and it can help the families that suffered through this period to identify their family members, for example by excavating mass graves.
Among other methods, UNITAD is collecting evidence through interviews with victims. These victims have often experienced extremely traumatic events and need psychosocial support to fully tell their stories. Due to the potential risks that these witnesses face, such as violence in response to their testimonies, UNITAD also needs to take measures to ensure their anonymity and the confidentiality of the interviews. The Netherlands’ contribution in 2019 helped to strengthen the Victim and Witness Protection unit, including psychologists to provide support with the interviews.
At the end of 2019, the Netherlands provided further support to UNITAD to employ several Yezidi staff members, who can help the Investigative Team to engage with the Yezidi community in its own language. UNITAD works closely with Yezidi civil society organisations like Yazda and Free Yezidi Foundation, which also receive support from the Netherlands.
Dutch support to UNITAD fits in with our broader support for accountability in Iraq. In 2019, the Netherlands also renewed its support to the DNA identification process of missing persons, helping to identify the bodies of people discovered in mass graves.