Stanford University's Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Program, of which the Center for Human Rights and International Justice is a partner, has contributed to a new UNITAD field guide. During a Security Council Arria Meeting held at the United Nations headquarters on 12 May 2021, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) launched two publications on the use of advanced technology in international criminal investigations, and the implementation of a trauma-informed approach to working with witnesses and survivors.
The “Trauma-Informed Investigations Field Guide” sets out the trauma-informed approach that has guided UNITAD’s investigative practice. This approach has been developed in collaboration with the Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Program at Stanford University, which has also provided UNITAD with expert impact reports synthesizing available mental health data pertaining to those affected by crimes committed by ISIL. UNITAD has developed standard operating procedures on the basis of the trauma-informed approach and drawing on international best practice, several of which are appended to the Field Guide.
“The grave suffering of survivors of heinous international crimes is not abstract—it is, in fact, well understood in the medical, psychological, and social sciences. The Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Program aims to fundamentally adapt the way legal advocates, investigators, first responders, and mental health practitioners understand this suffering, both in how they are trained to work with survivors and how they guide various justice systems’ understanding of the impact of these harms. We are pushing to ensure trauma-informed practice becomes the norm, rather than a luxury,” said Dr. Daryn Reicherter, Director of the Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Laboratory and Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
Special Adviser Karim A. A. Khan stressed that “from the outset of its work, UNITAD has sought to implement its mandate through a creative approach drawing on a wide range of partnerships with survivor groups, national authorities, private sector entities, and non-governmental organizations. In doing so, the Team has identified areas in which current international standards can be further enhanced through its work on the ground in Iraq. This has been most evident in the development of those two important publications, which will serve as resources on best practices in two areas in which UNITAD has pioneered.”
The other UNITAD release, “Harnessing Technology in International Criminal Investigations,” outlines ways in which technological tools have been deployed in the implementation of UNITAD’s mandate, and how UNITAD, in partnership with key private sector actors, has adapted and developed new technologies in dealing with huge volumes of complex and challenging data. This publication presents lessons learned that may serve as a resource for domestic and international entities alike, especially in respect of international crimes.
For more information, please contact Mr. Georges Fakhry, Chief Public Information Officer for the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquiries may also be directed to the UNITAD Public Information Office at UNITAD-PIO@un.org.