Statement by Special Adviser Christian Ritscherafter Meeting with His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Najaf, 19 December 2022 – It is a great honor and a true pleasure for myself and my team to be present here and to visit His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Not only have we been warmly welcomed to the holy city of Najaf, but also were generously received by His Eminence; the man whose legacy is unmatched, and who has always exerted all effort to serve Iraq and the Iraqi people.

Since the establishment of this Team, until today here, we have constantly counted on His Eminence’s wisdom and support to our cause in serving justice, and to our work in the pursuit of accountability for all victims of ISIL international crimes in Iraq. His messages of peace and his calls for justice as a way of healing from the wounds inflicted by ISIL on the Iraqi people, and as a way forward for cohesion and unity in Iraq remain at the heart of our work.

We are humbled by His Eminence’s heed to the grievances of all victim communities in Iraq, regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation. My Team dedicates itself to this same principle in implementing our mandate; that all ISIL victims matter equally, with no hierarchy. We do hope that by doing our work, we can contribute to the same path of his Eminence, in seeking the truth, serving justice and healing for all affected communities who suffered from the international crimes committed by ISIL, which are war crimes, crimes against humanity, and in some cases genocide.
I had the honor to discuss with His Eminence my Team’s investigative work and our pursuit for justice in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. We can never forget the plight of all affected communities, those who endured so much pain and suffering during ISIL’s dark ruling, a group that His Eminence stood, and still stands so strongly and honorably against.

I, and my team at UNITAD remain firmly committed to continue our investigative work to ensure that ISIL members are held accountable for the crimes that they committed against all affected communities in Iraq, including the Yazidi community, the Shia, the Sunni, the Christian, the Ka’kai, the Shabak and the Shia-Turkmen. ISIL international crimes aimed to destroy the diverse social fabric of Iraq, as well as its rich cultural heritage. Such crimes should be investigated, their legal characterization established, and their perpetrators held accountable before courts of law. That is the heart of our mission in UNITAD.

I am truly thankful for this opportunity to meet with His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, and was extremely encouraged after listening to his wise words and invaluable advice. And I reiterate my Team’s unwavering dedication to the pursuit of truth, of justice and of accountability for ISIL’s heinous international crimes in Iraq. I am reassured today, by the blessings of His Eminence, that our pursuits will continue to move forward steadily in partnership with Iraq, and to serve justice for victims and survivors of all communities in Iraq.


For More information please contact Public Information Officer (Maha Thaher) for the
United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL,
E-mail: UNITAD-PIO@un.org