With the liberation of parts of Iraq from ISIS in 2017, political infighting and widespread corruption, Iraq’s efforts to recover from two U.S. invasions, sanctions and the destructive war to defeat Islamic State in 2017, have failed, leaving the country facing turmoil.
Legal Officer at UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for crimes committed by Daesh (UNITAD), Nicole El Khoury, took to social media on Friday to reflect on her 1.5 years of experience in Iraq and its impact.
“I leave Iraq today after 1.5 years, where I was part of a team investigating crimes committed by a group that spread terror across this nation in the past years,” El Khoury wrote.
“Today I handed over my personal protective equipment: my bullet proof vest, my helmet, my radio, my encrypted devices, and a piece of my heart. We equip ourselves with protective gears particularly when faced with daunting evil. But nothing protects us from uncovering mass atrocities: crimes that amount to genocide. crimes against humanity. war crimes,” El Khoury said.
Several lawyers appointed by the United Nations provide legal assistance to Islamic State (ISIS) suspects and families perceived to be related to ISIS member as the International law guarantees anyone accused of a crime access to a lawyer at all stages of criminal proceedings.
“I thought that working on counter-terrorism for the past 12 years would “normalize” evil. But nothing prepares you to uncover the truth, as told by the victims, the survivors and those who witnessed it,” she affirmed.
The UN legal officer had expressed remorse and sadness over leaving “many things behind,” “familiar faces, survivors who became friends, communities and tribal leaders who became family.”
“I never thought I would be exhuming mass graves. Yet I spent the past 1.5 years doing that. Bringing to light bodies and the stories they tell. If you listen carefully, you do not just hear screams or sense fear. You also hear the hope for safety and a better future that the victims had,” she stated.
She indicated that she came to learn that “the only way forward, is through,” promoting courage and freedom.
“They say there are no beautiful surfaces without a terrible depth. Iraq, thank you for the beauty. The empathy. And the lessons of survival,” she concluded.