Remarks at a High-Level Event on “The Fight against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice”

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 9, 2017

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Simon. And many thanks to Belgium, Canada, Iraq, Germany, and the UK, as well as to the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, for organizing this event and for your leadership on this issue, “The Fight against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice.” To my good friend Special Representative Zainab Hawa Bangura, to Ms. Amal Clooney, and especially to UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, your untiring advocacy on behalf of ISIS’ victims is inspiring to us all, and it is a privilege to be with you here today.

ISIS’ barbaric actions – systematic rape of women and girls; extreme and targeted brutality, including against Yezidis, Christians, Sunnis, and Shia Muslims, and other horrific crimes – must continue to be highlighted, with perpetrators brought to justice, and their victims supported. The Secretary of State also supports the view that ISIS has attempted genocide and commits atrocity crimes against Yezidis, Christians, and others in the areas where they operate.

What are the best means to hold ISIS accountable?

Given the heinous and transnational nature of ISIS’s crimes and other acts, we believe that the collection and preservation of evidence will be key to future accountability efforts. Documentary and other evidence, and the application of impartial justice, will not only contribute to accountability for perpetrators, but is likewise essential to post-conflict reconciliation and long-term stability.

The United States is dedicated to assisting in evidence collection for ISIS atrocities, such as support to identify possible mass graves. In Iraq, where the government leads the fight against ISIS, we have supported the UK’s proposal for an international mechanism – to work in partnership with the Iraqi government – to collect evidence for future use in criminal justice systems. Simultaneously, Iraq’s judicial capacity should continue to be developed to better investigate and prosecute crimes related to violations and abuses of human rights, international humanitarian law, and other atrocity crimes. This would include legislative efforts to broaden Iraq’s prosecutorial toolkit for atrocity crimes. These endeavors will comprise a comprehensive approach to holding ISIS accountable for its horrific atrocities against the Iraqi people, will more accurately reflect the scale of ISIS’s criminality, and will better address the suffering of victims. We look to the Iraqi government to take the lead on these issues, and we have been encouraged by their statements and actions in support for accountability thus far.

While today we are talking about ISIS primarily, the United States supports accountability for all atrocity crimes. Looking ahead to post-conflict reconciliation in formerly ISIS-held territories across the region, we remain dedicated to working with our international partners to ensure a comprehensive and complementary approach to accountability for all atrocity crimes. So Nadia, we agree. We must demonstrate to all that justice is never, never beyond reach, and that absolutely nobody is above the law. Thank you.

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