Statement by Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD Christian Ritscher on visit to Anbar
26 May 2023
Anbar, 25 May 2023: Today, I came here to Anbar with a delegation of UNITAD, as we work on one of our key structural investigations into ISIL’s crimes; those crimes committed against the Sunni community in Iraq.
With violence at the core of its ideology, ISIL did not spare Iraq, its people from all communities, and its cultural and religious heritage from its vicious attacks. Like in other parts of Iraq, and as our findings indicate, ISIL targeted all segments of the Iraqi community in Anbar, including Sunni tribes that refused to pledge allegiance to ISIL’s rein of terror, declaring them apostates who deserve to be executed. During ISIL’s control of Anbar, a large number of tribesmen, women and children were killed by Da’esh or forcibly disappeared.
Our ongoing investigations are also looking into ISIL’s destruction and desecration of religious places like the shrine and mosque of Abdullah Bin Al-Mubarak, one of the most prominent and widely respected historical Sunni persons. With these acts, ISIL proved, once and again, that its attacks were not founded in religion, but on their twisted manipulative discourses, that have nothing to do with religion or belief. These acts are founded in hate and inhumanity.
Our teams have been working tirelessly to uncover the scope of ISIL’s attacks targeting all those who stood against it, with a dedicated investigative unit for the crimes committed against the Sunni community.
This includes interviewing witnesses and survivors and supporting the excavation of mass grave sites. In addition, our experts very recently launched a digitization project with Al Anbar Criminal Court to digitize and preserve the courts’ records and cases pertaining to ISIL crimes. These operations contribute to drawing the full picture of ISIL’s criminality and enhances our different lines of inquiry. We will go on with such investigations, aiming to establish the legal qualification of the crimes committed by ISIL perpetrators as international crimes, meaning war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
With this said, I must stress that UNITAD’s work in Anbar would not be possible without the close cooperation with victim and survivor communities, as well as our Iraqi counterparts including the Iraqi judiciary. I reaffirm my thanks to the Iraqi Jurisprudence Council, for their continued support, and I commend the Council’s firm position against ISIL.
The bereaved families who have waited for long to see the truth uncovered, and for justice to prevail have welcomed UNITAD and welcomed me today, and to them I say, your plights remain at the core of our work. Commemorating ISIL victims from the Sunni community comes in line with our principle that there is no hierarchy of victims. Each and every victim matters, from all affected communities. Yet, remembrance is not the only way we honor the victims and their families. It is through true justice and accountability for the many crimes committed by ISIL perpetrators that we do so.
Through my visit today I reiterate my Team’s commitment to continue its work to establish the truth and serve justice to all victims, including those from the Sunni community. We are here among you and will continue to work jointly with all stakeholders to meet your calls for justice.