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UN chief appoints German lawyer to lead ISIS investigation

The head of the United Nations on Tuesday named a German lawyer to lead the UN’s investigation into Islamic State (ISIS) crimes in Iraq, replacing a British barrister who has moved to the International Criminal Court.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Christian Ritscher as special adviser and head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh/ISIL (UNITAD), the UN said in a statement.

Ritscher is the second person to lead UNITAD, succeeding Karim Khan. He previously served as a federal public prosecutor at the German Federal Court of Justice and has 30 years’ worth of professional experience in criminal law prosecutions and investigations, according to the UN.

He was also the head of German War Crimes Unit, which prosecutes individuals in Germany for international crimes, including the alleged ISIS crimes against the Yazidi community in Iraq in 2014.

ISIS swept through swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria in 2014, imposing its so-called caliphate rule with exceptional violence. Among the group’s crimes detailed by the UN are “executions, torture, amputations, ethno-sectarian attacks, rape and sexual slavery imposed on women and girls.”

UNITAD was formed after Baghdad called requested assistance from the UN August 2017 to ensure that ISIS members would be held to account for their crimes in Iraq.

The Security Council adopted a resolution in September 2017 for the UN Secretary-General to establish an investigative them “to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that might amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Iraq.”

UNITAD said it has compiled evidence that ISIS committed genocide against Yazidis.

In February, Khan was elected prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He tweeted his congratulations to Ritscher.