posted on Mon 19 Feb 2018 4:26 PM
UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI): Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow afternoon (20 February), the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in Iraq. Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), will brief on the latest report on UNAMI (S/2018/42) and recent developments.

In his briefing, Kubiš is likely to devote significant attention to the recently held Iraqi donor conference hosted by Kuwait, which is currently serving as Council president. The main aim of the three-day conference, which concluded on 14 February, was to secure funds for reconstruction efforts in the areas destroyed during the fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Pledges of approximately $30 billion were made, although this was short of the original goal of $100 billion.

During the conference, Secretary-General António Guterres launched the “UN Recovery and Resilience Programme” (RRP), which is expected to last two years. Key goals of the RRP include building confidence in the Iraqi government and revitalising the areas which pose the highest risk of the return of violent extremism. The program is designed to address challenges on the national level, such as decentralising basic services, promoting sustainable returns, providing support to survivors, and accelerating community reconciliation. A number of Council members are likely to welcome the conference and the launch of the RRP.

Council members will be interested in hearing about the humanitarian situation from Kubiš. Although the Iraqi government and its allies have defeated ISIL on the battlefield, the humanitarian situation remains dire with approximately 2.5 million people internally displaced, according to the latest figures from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.

Kubiš might provide details about the status of returns of displaced persons and conditions in newly liberated areas, a serious humanitarian issue with considerable political implications, considering that parliamentary elections are scheduled for 12 May. Some Sunni lawmakers have called for the elections to be postponed amidst concerns that displaced people will not be able to return to their homes in time. Given that UNAMI will be providing electoral assistance to the government of Iraq, Kubiš is likely to address some of the activities of the mission in that regard and might also present a more detailed picture of the general preparedness for the elections.

While Kubiš’s briefing will be centered on developments on the ground in Iraq, several members are likely to mention the terms of reference (TOR) for the investigative team to support Iraq’s domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable. On 13 February, the Council formally approved these TOR. Resolution 2379 of 21 September 2017 requested the Secretary-General to establish the team to support Iraq’s domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving and storing evidence of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by ISIL in Iraq.

In the months following the adoption of resolution 2379, the Secretariat and the government of Iraq engaged in lengthy negotiations on the TOR for the mandate of the investigative team. Although the resolution requested the Secretary-General to submit the TOR for the Council’s approval by 20 November 2017, the Secretary-General requested several extensions of the deadline for the submission.

A controversial issue that arose in drafting the TOR related to the sharing of evidence by the investigative team for use in criminal proceedings in which capital punishment could be imposed. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has, over the past year, expressed concern over mass executions of suspected ISIL fighters in Iraq, which has been heightened by doubts about the adherence to due process and fair trial guarantees. Several Council members, especially those that oppose the death penalty, have echoed these concerns, even though there was unanimity among members on efforts to hold to account ISIL (and other armed groups) that committed atrocities.

While some Council members would have preferred the TOR to make explicit reference to prohibition of the use of capital punishment and believe that the current language might be open to varied interpretation, it seems that concerns regarding the use of the capital punishment were addressed implicitly in the TOR. For example, one of the paragraphs notes that the investigative team is to share evidence in line with UN policies and best practice and relevant international human rights law, rules and standards, while another specifies that the investigative team will coordinate with the Iraqi authorities on the modalities for the use of evidence in criminal proceedings.

Looking ahead, the Secretary-General is expected to appoint the Special Adviser who will lead the investigative team and promote accountability globally for crimes committed by ISIL. The Special Adviser will also be responsible for appointing the members of the investigative team, which will be composed of Iraqi and international experts, Iraqi investigative judges, and other criminal experts.