Since the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Iraq in 2004, the country has been subject to grave atrocities which have amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. In response to the country’s growing counter terrorism needs, the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC/TPB) has been delivering technical assistance to reinforce the capacity of criminal justice and law enforcement to prevent and counter terrorism.
In October 2020, two workshops were delivered for Iraqi practitioners in Beirut – the first time that in-person workshops were implemented by UNODC/TPB since the outbreak of the global health pandemic. Participants included a total of 33 Iraqi investigators and judges including three women, as well as experts from international, regional and national organizations.
The first three-day training, which took place on 13-15 October 2020, focused on managing and conducting investigative interviews. The main objective of the workshop was to strengthen law enforcement officials' capacity to collect judicially admissible evidence in terrorism-related cases while complying with human rights standards, especially when interviewing women and children.
One expert noted that “the main message for participants is that if they approach an interview with detailed pre-planning and then treat the suspect with kindness, empathy and spend time to build rapport, they will significantly increase cooperation, disclosure, evidence and intelligence.”
One participant, who has been working as a criminal investigator for 25 years, also noted that “the workshop provided us with new information that will enhance the work of our everyday qualitative work.”
The second workshop, which was held on 20-22 October 2020, built on the outcomes of its predecessor and focused on the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of crimes committed by ISIL/Da’esh. The event also offered an interactive forum to discuss human-rights and gender-inclusive practices in terrorism-related cases. It also focused on remote criminal proceedings and their processing to ensure respect for the rights of the defendant which would also enable criminal justice institutions to work safely during the pandemic.
The importance of incorporating gender dimensions in criminal proceedings was recognized and underscored in both activities. A female investigative judge who participated in one of the workshops noted that “women have always played a central part in the process of administration of justice and social reintegration in Iraq. It is why their participation in security training sessions is essential to counter terrorism and rehabilitation efforts at the national level.”
The activities were delivered under the framework of a UNODC/TPB project, funded by Japan, on responding to violent extremism and terrorism which includes a tailored approach on dealing with children perceived as associated and or affiliated with ISIL/Da’esh in Iraq.