New Chief of Human Rights Office of UNAMI and Representative of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq Danielle Bell (center) meets with Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Iraq to the UN Office in Geneva Mouayed Saleh (right). Photo: UNAMI
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The UN in Iraq began facilitating an initiative that will provide survivors of ISIS crimes with a gateway to justice within the country's judicial system.
"Participants shared their experiences on the administration of justice, the treatment of victims of sexual violence and marginalized groups," announced the Human Rights Office (HRO) of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
People from Nineveh took place in the event.
"The roundtable is the first of many forums that will take place in the coming months on justice-related issues in the Governorate," added a statement from UNAMI.
They established the 'Ninewa Human Rights and Justice Network.' The province is one of the most diverse in Iraq and has been home to Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Yezidis, Shabaks, and other ethno-religious minorities.
One of the main barriers to return for many of Iraq's 1.9 million IDPs is "justice" — holding ISIS perpetrators and collaborators to account.
"This network of lawyers, civil society activists, social workers and representatives of the Mosul Bar Association will examine human rights issues related to the administration of justice, including due process concerns in Ninewa Governorate," added the statement.
More than four years after the extremists took over most of Nineveh, attempts at justice have been piecemeal. A Hamdaniya court handles land disputes, former Iraqi prime minister ordered the execution of dozens of ISIS members early this year, and a court was planned to be opened in Tal Afar; although, Yezidis complained the proposed court was inaccessible and lacked weight.
Experts say it is unlikely that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will get involved because Iraq is not party to the Rome Statue. Additionally the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) does not have administrative access to many areas where ISIS committed its crimes or the jails where many suspects are kept.
The United Nations established an investigatory team to gather evidence of ISIS crimes in Iraq, at the request of Baghdad. The head of the team, British lawyer Karim Khan, will visit Shingal at the end of this month and expects to begin investigations in early 2019.
HRO Chief Danielle Bell and her team visited Mosul earlier this week and met with Judge Salem Mohamed Nouri, the chief of Federal Cassation Court for Nineveh.
"[T]hey discussed issues related to human rights and administration of justice and the challenges that post -ISIL phase have on the judiciary," according to UNAMI.
Bell stressed a priority for the judiciary "was their own safety so that they can effectively carry out their duties."
Parts of Nineveh still contain ISIS remnants, Iraqi forces, KRG forces, and various militias and paramilitias.
Recent estimates by conflict analysts have put the number of remaining ISIS fighters at 15,000-20,000. At the height of the ISIS conflict, the US-led coalition espoused the mantra that the group would be eradicated.
"Meaningful accountability is fundamental to addressing the crimes of the past, enabling societies to recover from the legacy of terror," added UNAMI.