August 3, 2021

At the heart of the investigation into IS crimes

1006, 1109, 0614… Dozens of passwords, cracked in a few seconds, scroll across the screen of a laboratory computer. The forensic expert can finally access the heart of mobile phones found on the battlefield and reveal the secrets of the Islamic State (IS) organization hidden in the SIM cards. “The game now is to make them talk! “, explains Adrien, who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons. In the heart of the green zone in Baghdad, the ultra-protected sector of the Iraqi capital, this high-tech laboratory looks like Legends office.

The United Nations scientific team deals with “Hard evidence” crimes committed by ISIS during the occupation of northern and western Iraq, from 2014 to 2017. Mobile phones and hard drives bear the traces left by the perpetrators of the massacres that have left the country in mourning and terrified the world. This is the first real high-tech investigation into mass crimes. In addition to electronic evidence, there are hundreds of testimonies collected by the six investigation teams in the field, ballistic analyzes and those drawn from the exhumation of mass graves. At least 202 mass graves have been discovered by the UN, like grim white pebbles laid on the road of the terrorist organization.

In September 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to set up an investigation team (Unitad) responsible for collecting, preserving and storing evidence of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide committed in Iraq by ISIS. The mandate goes beyond a simple fact-finding mission. It is a real judicial inquiry. For two weeks, its investigators opened their doors to World and shared their daily life on a crime scene of some 56,000 km2.

Gather evidence

A ” the Ville “, one of the former residences of the sinister Oudai, eldest son of Saddam Hussein and ace of hearts in the card game created by the Americans during the hunt for regime figures after the invasion of 2003, the youngest of the team must work on « battlefield evidence ”. Adrien cleans the connectors of a hard drive clogged with dirt and blood. “All the connections are completely smashed, observe l’expert forensique. He may have been in a house that exploded or in the back of a car that was used in attacks. Here, we extract information about computers that are ten years old, that have spent their lives under 50 degrees and in the dust. “

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