Remarks at an Event on "The Fight Against Impunity: Bringing Da'esh to Justice"

Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
New York City
September 19, 2016

Thank you to the governments of Iraq, Belgium, and the United Kingdom for focusing us on this profoundly important issue.

And thank you Ms. Murad for the courage to share your account. It reminds us that justice for Da’esh’s crimes is no abstraction; it is about mending broken hearts, families, and future generations.

Secretary Kerry has concluded that Da’esh is responsible for committing acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. As such, the international community must marshal the same determination to secure justice for Da’esh’s atrocities as we do to secure victory on the battlefield. And we needn’t wait to begin the pursuit of justice.

Already, the United States helps excavate and protect mass graves to document Da’esh’s crimes. We support forensic teams’ efforts to identify the missing. We use telemetry and geospatial analysis to identify potential mass grave sites behind enemy lines. And we aid survivors of Da’esh atrocities, including those who’ve suffered sexual and gender-based violence.

Ultimately the full facts about Da’esh’s atrocities must be brought to light by an independent investigation and formal legal determination by a competent court or tribunal, and we look forward to partnering with allied governments to find the best mechanism to ensure truth and accountability.

However we proceed with this initiative, we must remember that Da’esh’s crimes are not constrained by borders, and that Da’esh is not the only perpetrator of atrocities in the areas they have contested. So the United States suports efforts to hold accountable all perpetrators of atrocities, regardless of their creed or affiliation, through fair, credible trials—in Iraq, Syria, and beyond.

This is essential, because where justice is absent, or where it only applies to some, that is where violent extremists can take root and grow.

The promotion of justice is therefore not only a moral imperative, but a strategic imperative. Together, we must build the political will, strengthen the relevant institutions, and empower the brave individuals like Ms. Murad to show Da’esh – and all others who would perpetrate atrocities – that justice is never beyond reach. Thank you.