Let me begin by thanking Special Advisor Ritscher and his team for their report and for this comprehensive presentation. Switzerland welcomes the progress made during the period under review by the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh.
I would like to highlight three elements that Switzerland considers essential for the work of UNITAD:
Firstly, accountability and justice are essential pillars for preventing atrocities and achieving sustainable peace. UNITAD contributes to these goals by investigating and documenting the crimes committed by Da’esh in Iraq. Impunity for these crimes prevents justice for the victims and survivors, which is unacceptable. In this regard, Switzerland welcomes the increased cooperation between Iraq and UNITAD aimed at strengthening prosecution capacity for crimes committed by Da’esh, in accordance with international standards. Effective cooperation with the Iraqi government, as well as with national partners, is an indispensable element of the mandate and activities of the mechanism. We welcome its innovative and technology-driven approach to evidence collection and analysis, which is particularly useful to support future proceedings.
We also welcome UNITAD's contribution to the establishment, in close cooperation with Iraqi officials, of a joint working group on the implementation of a national legal framework. We recall that the mechanism does not share evidence in judicial proceedings that may lead to a death sentence. Switzerland is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, as it is incompatible with respect for human rights and human dignity. Not only is the death penalty ineffective as a deterrent, it also has no effect on preventing crime, violent extremism and terrorism.
Secondly, UNITAD's approach must continue to integrate a gender perspective. Sexual and gender-based violence is particularly prevalent in contexts of terrorism and conflict. It continues to be used as a terrorist tactic throughout the world. It is therefore imperative that strategies to prevent and combat terrorism go hand in hand with the fight against sexual and gender-based violence. Switzerland is shocked by the numerous, well-documented and horrifying sexual and gender-based crimes committed by Da’esh, including against the Yezidi community. These crimes continue to profoundly affect not only the survivors, but also their families and, beyond that, entire communities. We therefore welcome the mechanism's strategy of investigating crimes committed against different communities in Iraq, including those based on gender and against children. It is vital that those affected by these crimes, particularly children, receive adequate support. Their rights, their protection and the prevention of these crimes must be at the heart of our collective efforts.
Thirdly, Switzerland welcomes the expansion of UNITAD's investigations into the destruction of cultural heritage with a view to identifying potential perpetrators. The willful destruction of cultural heritage, which are also aimed at persecuting populations, reduces cultural diversity, fuels conflicts and jeopardizes long-term security; it deprives future generations of an integral part of their identity. Switzerland encourages the mechanism to continue its efforts to develop an expanded investigation plan, in close collaboration with UNESCO, non-UN entities and the Iraqi authorities.
Terrorism has inflicted and continues to inflict deep wounds on the societies affected in Iraq. Women are the first victims - which in no way prevents them from committing themselves firmly to building a sustainable peace. We must do our utmost to ensure that those responsible for the crimes committed by Da’esh in Iraq are brought to justice. I would therefore like once again to thank Special Adviser Ritscher and his team for their tireless work and to assure them of our continued support.
I thank you.