Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for your leadership with this session.
The idea of seeking justice for victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and other atrocity crimes had its beginning in the years following World War II. Nothing could replace the lives lost or make families whole again. But by holding perpetrators to account for their crimes, a measure of justice was provided to the victims and the loved ones they left behind.
By acting here today, we, too, cannot restore the lives, the dignity, and the innocence of the victims of crimes committed by the Islamic State. But by taking this important step towards holding ISIS accountable for its many unspeakable crimes, we can achieve justice. And that, in time, will hopefully begin a process of healing.
It may have taken a long time to get here, but today’s resolution is a landmark. It is a major first step towards addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq – crimes that include genocide. These victims have been Yazidis, Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and many, many more.
In the long history of human beings committing atrocities against their fellow human beings, the crimes of ISIS stand out – especially the brutality they inflicted on girls and women. Thousands of Yazidi women and girls have been kidnapped by ISIS and then bought and sold like animals. I have met with some of these women. The victims of rape and sexual slavery are understandably reluctant to speak out publicly. But thanks to what we do here today, the world will still hear about their suffering.
The investigative team created by this resolution is part of a comprehensive approach to holding ISIS accountable for its atrocities against the Iraqi people. Working with the Iraqi and other partners, it will expose ISIS’ depravity, and provide an indispensable record of the scope and scale of its criminality. With victory over ISIS in Iraq on the horizon, this record will play an important role as Iraqis attempt to reconcile this painful period of their national life. This team will help to identify victims and perpetrators. It will help bring perpetrators to face the justice they so richly deserve, giving victims their day in court. And in doing so, we hope and pray that the Iraqi people can begin the process of returning to peaceful, normal, everyday lives.
The United States was honored to work alongside our Iraqi and British partners over the course of the past year to make this resolution a reality. We thank them for their dedication of seeing this through.
And while this resolution is about the transnational ISIS threat, we support accountability for all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses.
Above all, we thank the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Abadi for taking this important first step towards demonstrating that justice is never beyond reach, that no victim is voiceless, and that no perpetrator is above the law.