Press Release

A Triumph for Accountability Efforts: How Iraq and UNITAD supported Portugal’s First Conviction for International Crimes

03 March 2024

February 03, 2024: In a significant stride towards justice, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) welcomed Portugal's recent landmark conviction of an ISIL member, after being charged for international crimes committed in Iraq.

The ISIL perpetrator, A.A., an Iraqi national who fled to Europe, was charged of committing war crimes, in Mosul, Iraq, for the kidnapping and whipping of an Iraqi citizen. The perpetrator was additionally convicted, along with his brother Y.A. of membership in a terrorist organization (ISIL). "This ruling is Portugal’s first conviction of a perpetrator on charges of war crimes. It marks a milestone along the path made possible thanks to the unique partnership between UNITAD and Iraq. The Iraqi Judiciary and the Team have been extending crucial support to accountability processes in third states with competent jurisdictions to prosecute international crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq," said Special Adviser and Head of UNITAD, Christian Ritscher.

In 2020, UNITAD received the request for assistance from the General Public Prosecutor’s Office in Portugal and, in response, led an investigation in close cooperation with Judge Raed al-Mosleh, now President of the Nineveh Federal Appeals Court. This resulted in identifying 13 victims and witnesses whom the Team interviewed as prosecution witnesses. UNITAD facilitated for the witnesses to testify -while in Duhok- through video conferencing during the pretrial before the Portuguese judge, prosecutor, and defense lawyer. Afterwards, Judge Raed Al-Mosleh also facilitated for the defense witnesses to testify remotely, during the proceedings, from his courthouse in Mosul, which was the first time for the Iraqi judiciary to arrange remote witness testimonies using video conferencing. In addition, UNITAD's lead investigator gave a key expert testimony during the trial before the Portuguese court.

"We are extremely proud of our joint pursuit on this case with Honorable Judge Raed Al Mosleh, which led to this landmark conviction. It exemplifies the meaningful work of UNITAD together with the Iraqi judiciary as a partner that supports evidence-based justice processes in Iraq and throughout the world," stressed Special Adviser Ritscher.

This work has been possible thanks to the solid support and continued cooperation between UNITAD and the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, headed by Chief Justice Dr. Faiq Zaidan, President of the Supreme Judicial Council. The Team has been working together with competent Iraqi judges to ensure the proper preservation of evidence for ISIL crimes in accordance with the highest international standards. Moreover, the continued work with the Iraqi judiciary to build joint case files against ISIL perpetrators has been an important step forward on the path of accountability and meaningful justice, supporting prosecutions throughout the world.

In his recent briefing to the United Nations Security Council in December of 2023, Special Adviser Ritscher highlighted UNITAD's instrumental role in supporting third state investigations and prosecutions as "this ensures that the gap in global accountability does not expand." To date, the Team has supported requests for assistance from 20 third states with competent jurisdictions to prosecute ISIL international crimes in Iraq. This demand for third states support has grown exponentially over the past years.

This conviction in Portugal is the latest in a growing list of convictions in third states resulting from UNITAD’s support to prosecutions, in cooperation with the Iraqi judiciary. So far, the Team has supported 17 cases in third state jurisdictions that were under investigation and led to indictments. 15 of these cases ended up in convictions of ISIL members or affiliates.

In 2021, the first conviction of ISIL member for committing genocide against the Yazidis was issued by the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt, Germany. ISIL member, Taha Al-J was found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide following a 19-months trial. Other significant convictions, which UNITAD’s support contributed to, include, a conviction by the Swedish district court in 2022 of an ISIL female member for her failure to protect her 12 years old son, from being recruited and used as child soldier by ISIL. Also, in June 2023, the German Higher Regional Court of Koblenz convicted an ISIL female member, Nadine K., a German national who was found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the enslavement and abuse of a young Yazidi woman in Iraq. The Yazidi victim, who was enslaved by the ISIL couple for 3 years, participated in the case as a co-plaintiff, and thus, witnessed her day in court.

It is important to note that prosecutions for international crimes allow for the meaningful participation of victims in criminal proceedings. This focuses on the centrality of victims and survivors. Such prosecutions recognize the suffering of the victims and allow for their voices to be heard, through evidence-based trials that establish the truth of ISIL’s heinous crimes.  

“This remains a core objective of UNITAD’s work,” said Special Adviser Ritscher adding that “the Team will exert every possible effort to ensure that the fruitful partnership with the Iraqi judiciary yields its desired results in successful prosecutions that lead to convictions on charges of international crimes. This is a common goal for the UN, for Iraq, for third states as well as for the thousands of Iraqi victims and survivors.”


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Maha Thaher

Public Information Officer

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United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

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