Recommendations for the Terms of Reference and Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2379 on Da’esh Accountability

Subject: Recommendations for the Terms of Reference and Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2379 on Da’esh Accountability

Your Excellency,

We are writing to you to call on your leadership in ensuring successful implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2379, initiating an Investigative Team for crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, hereinafter referred to as “Da’esh”).

Below, please find a list of recommendations which we hope will be reflected in the Terms of Reference for the Resolution, with the purpose of establishing a commitment to the highest standards of international law and guaranteeing inclusiveness and accountability, including through gender justice and a victim-centered approach.

The adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2379 on September 21, 2017 marks an important milestone in the enormous task of holding members of Da’esh accountable for their commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. In this respect, we particularly emphasize the need to investigate and prosecute all forms of sexual and gender-based violence which can constitute acts of genocide as well.

We hope the Investigative Team will lay the groundwork for an inclusive and comprehensive justice process for all those affected by the conflict and atrocities committed.

We thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Global Justice Center Eyzidi Organization for Documentation
Iraqi Al-Amal Association   Iraqi Women Network
Madre Yazda

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UN Security Council Adopts Resolution - One Step Towards Justice for the Yazidi Genocide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 21, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] – Today, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted UNSC Resolution 2379 (2017) on Daesh accountability, paving the way for an investigative team to collect evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Iraq. Since 2014, Daesh has been perpetrating a genocidal campaign against the Yazidi and potentially other ethnic minorities in Northern Iraq but yet to date no perpetrator has been held accountable for genocide.

GJC’s Statement on Iraq Requesting International Assistance in Bringing Daesh to Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 16, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] -  GJC welcomes Iraq’s letter to the UN requesting assistance in bringing Daesh to justice and thanks the United Kingdom for its efforts in negotiating a UN Security Council resolution. We reiterate our call that all investigations and prosecutions must ensure accountability for gender-based crimes, including those amounting to genocide, by all actors. We also express concern over reports of current Daesh prosecutions that focus solely on terrorism crimes, extrajudicial killings and torture of those thought to be Daesh-aligned and accordingly, call on the Iraqi Government to ensure due process in line with international human rights standards.

We also urge the Iraqi government to ensure that enabling legislation is adopted to incorporate genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity into domestic law in order to ensure that prosecutions reflect the full criminality of the acts in question. The global community must hold the perpetrators of these horrific crimes accountable for their actions, and ensure victims and survivors receive their entitled reparations, including redress and reparations for sexual and gender-based violence. Finally, we call on all parties in Iraq and the Global Coalition against Daesh to ensure respect for international humanitarian law (IHL), including by ensuring access to comprehensive medical and psychosocial care for victims, and to take concrete steps to rescue all remaining Yazidi women and children held captive by Daesh.

For more information contact:

Stephanie Olszewski (New York), Global Justice Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +1.212.725.6530 ext. 211
 

On the Third Anniversary of the Massacre at Sinjar the Global Justice Center Calls for Justice for the Yazidi Genocide

Today, on the three year Anniversary of Sinjar, GJC is raising awareness on the need for action and justice:

  • In the New York Times, read Akila Radhakrishnan's letter to the editor calling for the international community to stop ignoring the plight of the Yazidi.
     
  • In Pass Blue, read Barbara Crossette's interview with Janet Benshoof on building a case for prosecuting ISIS fighters. 
     
  • In the Fair Observer, read Liz Olson's piece on the genocide against the Yazidi that is still ongoing, and could still be successful.
     
  • GJC and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales sent a brief to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court urging them to open a preliminary examination into genocide and other crimes committed by foreign fighters from ISIS.
     
  • GJC recently convened a Brain Trust of international law and genocide experts to discuss reconciling international laws on genocide and counter-terrorism. You can read the outcome document for the Brain Trust here.
     
  • Listen to GJC's podcasts with Sareta Ashraph and Stephen Rappon the genocide of the Yazidi and the avenues for justice.

On the Third Anniversary of the Massacre at Sinjar, the Global Justice Center and Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales Call for Justice for the Yazidi Genocide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 3, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] - Today is the third anniversary of the massacre at Mount Sinjar where ISIS fighters murdered thousands of Yazidi men and enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls. Despite the fact that the UN and the European Parliament have accepted that crimes committed against the Yazidis constitute genocide, there has not been a single prosecution of ISIS fighters for these crimes.

Outcomes from the Global Justice Center Brain Trust

Reconciling International Laws on Genocide and Counter-Terrorism 

On June 12, 2017, the Global Justice Center convened a Brain Trust of legal experts to consider how to reconcile the legal obligations to prevent, suppress and punish genocide with counter-terrorism measures directed towards ISIS.

Evidence supports that ISIS has been engaged in an ongoing genocide against the Yazidis (and potentially other groups) since 2014. Over 3,000 Yazidi women and children remain in captivity. Today we may be witnessing yet again a failure of the international community to prevent, suppress and punish genocide.

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Global Justice Center and the Bar Human Rights Committee Send a Submission to the International Criminal Court Urging the Opening of a Preliminary Examination

This Submission is presented to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP or Office) of the International Criminal Court (ICC or Court) by the Global Justice Center and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, requesting the opening of a preliminary examination into genocide and other crimes committed against the Yazidis. 

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Q&A: Torture and International Law

What is the history of international laws against torture?

Akila: The prohibition on torture, at least in modern international law, began with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights that was passed in the 1960s and contained a general prohibition on torture and cruel and inhumane treatment. This prohibition was replicated in the 1970s in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Prohibitions on torture were also contained in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Around this time, in the 70s, Amnesty International began a campaign to get a declaration through the UN or another binding treaty body prohibiting torture.  Due to this campaign, in 1975 the UN passed a non-binding declaration on torture.  In the ten years after it passed, Amnesty did important documentation and individual reporting that found the declaration wasn't serving its purpose. This began the push and process of advocating for a stand-alone convention against torture. The Convention Against Torture was formally drafted in the early 1980s and was ratified by a number of states somewhere between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Grant: It was opened up for ratification in 1988, and I believe it came to force in 1994, so it took six years for a critical mass of states to accept it and for it to become enforceable, which is pretty typical of any international treaty.  In writing, the Convention the drafters very much had a traditional view of torture in mind. They were thinking of what we might think of as a "James Bond-esque" type of interrogation where there is one person under the control or custody of another person who wants information from that person either to use that information against them in a court of law or for whatever government purposes. So, when you read the Convention, you see a lot of that type of language regarding formal interrogation by a state.

A: Yes, they were considering issues around the French engaging in torture against the Algerians in the 1950s, the British using torture against the Irish in their civil war, those were the recent experiences in people's minds, ideas of the state trying to elicit information. This is also what we see in the US today; when people think of the torture they think of Bush administration, of water boarding, etc.

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On the International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide the International Community Must Act to End Ongoing Genocide Committed by ISIS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—December 9, 2016

[NEW YORK— Today the United Nations marks the second International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of the Crime. On this day, as we reflect on the legacy of genocide, yet again the international community is failing to take action in face of an ongoing genocide. ISIS is committing  genocide, including through acts of rape and sexual slavery, against the Yazidi and other ethnic minorities, and the world must take immediate action to stop these atrocities.

Prosecuting Genocide: European Union Obligations in the Age of Daesh

Daesh, also known as ISIS/ISIL, is committing genocide against religious and ethnic minorities, targeting women and girls in particular. The time is now for the EU to fulfil its international legal obligations to prevent and prosecute genocide. This means the EU must recognize this ongoing genocide, take steps to prevent and suppress it, and call for and facilitate its prosecution.

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On Two Year Anniversary of Sinjar, Wake Up Call to Global Community to Act

 by Martin Fowler

A year ago, on the one-year anniversary of ISIS’ callous murder of 5,000 Yazidi men and enslavement of 7,000 Yazidi women on Mount Sinjar, The Guardian asked its readers, “is Iraq becoming a forgotten humanitarian crisis?”

Today, on the two-year anniversary of the Sinjar Massacre, the answer is clear: the genocide perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidi minority is alreadya forgotten humanitarian crisis. In a Newsweekop-ed, GJC Staff Attorney Grant Shubin urges the international community to address the Yazidi atrocity as genocide.

Driven from their homes by ISIS’ frequent attacks, 40,000 Yazidis found themselves trapped on the mountain in August 2014. ISIS killed thousands of Yazidi men and enslaved even more women; those who did not fall into ISIS’ hands faced severe food and water shortages.

In addition to ISIS’ mass killings, their sexual enslavement and rape of Yazidi women constitute genocide and these crimes are prosecutable under international humanitarian law.

Yet, as Shubin notes, the international community focuses on ‘counterterrorism’ – not genocide – in its approach to ISIS, despite ample evidence of the latter and a clear legal responsibility to act to end the genocide.

This collective inaction allows ISIS fighters to continue carrying out genocide with impunity and is an offense to victims of previous genocides, upon whose memories the international community pledged to react more forcefully.

The Yazidi genocide might be forgotten today, but in the future, people will remember our inaction as yet another inadequate and woeful response – a twenty-first century version of the response to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. But there is still time to change this story – to confront and act upon our responsibilities under international humanitarian law to protect human beings from genocide and prosecute those who commit such acts.

Read GJC Staff Attorney Grant Shubin’sNewsweek op-ed, follow us onTumblr, and engage with us onTwitter andFacebook.

Remembering ISIS' Crimes of Genocide Against Yazidis on the Anniversary of the Sinjar Massacre

by Jessica Zaccagnino

With the rise of non-state terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State, the strategic face of war has changed. This shift has subsequently altered the experience of civilians in armed conflict. In this changing landscape, women and girls face distinct horrors in comparison to men.

Groups such as ISIS have been perpetuating genocide against minorities in controlled territories, notably against the Yazidis. These violent extremists target women and men differently when committing crimes of genocide. In addition to systematic murder, ISIS subjects women to sexual slavery, forced marriages, rape, forced impregnation, and other gender-specific crimes of genocide. Despite the distinct tactics that are being used to commit genocide, the gender reality of genocide is often overlooked when enforcing the Genocide Convention. Global Justice Center’s Genocide Project fights against the gender-gap in responding to crimes of genocide perpetrated by extremist groups, like ISIS, and seeks to ensure that the laws of war work for, and not against, women.

On the morning of August 3rd, 2014, ISIS forces entered the Sinjar region in Northern Iraq, only months after declaring itself a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria. The region has a high population of Yazidi people, an ethno-religious Kurdish minority that has been heavily targeted by the ISIS insurgency. In Sinjar alone, 5,000 men were killed, thousands of women were systematically raped and sold into sexual slavery, and over 150,000 Yazidis were displaced. When ISIS took Sinjar, men and boys over the age of ten were separated from women and children, and most, as evidence of mass graves suggests, were killed. In the process of fleeing, an estimated 50,000 Yazidis were trapped in the Sinjar Mountains, with ISIS forces surrounding them. Although a majority of those trapped were able to eventually escape the mountainous region, the Sinjar Massacre left thousands dead, and thousands more enslaved. Yazidi women “have been systemically captured, killed, separated from their families, forcibly transferred and displaced, sold and gifted (and resold and re-gifted), raped, tortured, held in slavery and sexual slavery, forcibly married and forcibly converted.” These women have been targeted by ISIS solely on the basis of their gender and ethnicity, and such acts make clear ISIS’ genocidal intent to destroy the group in whole.

Despite the air drops of food, water, and supplies, the Yazidis trapped in the mountain siege survived in grim conditions—circumstances intended by ISIS to destroy the group. In addition to air drops, President Obama invoked the need to “prevent a potential act of genocide” as a justification for launching air strikes to rescue those trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Just this year, Secretary of State John Kerry officially declared that ISIS is committing genocide. It is vital for the United States to recognize the unique aspects of genocide that specifically target gender within the persecution of Yazidis when taking action against ISIS. Although the United States has taken a big step in declaring ISIS’ genocide, the United States must move beyond words. In fact, the United States is required by the Genocide Convention to take action against genocide. Yet, as the two-year anniversary of Sinjar approaches on August 3rd, the United States has still not taken any necessary further steps to combat ISIS’ genocidal crimes.

GJC Published in Newsweek on Anniversary of Sinjar Massacre

Grant Shubin, a Staff Attorney at GJC, and Pari Ibrahim, the Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yazidi Foundation published an op-ed in Newsweek about the state of Yazidi women on the second anniversary of the Sinjar Massacre.

Click here to read the full article. 

International Justice Day

On July 17, Global Justice Center celebrated International Justice Day and reminded of the ongoing Yazidi Genocide, despite promises of #NeverAgain. 

#JusticeMatters

ISIS is Committing Genocide: Now What?

by Jessica Zaccagnino

On March 17th, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that ISIS is committing acts of genocide against Yazidis and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria, launching the United States into a complex discussion of how to feasibly prosecute ISIS. Although there is not universal ascension to the Genocide Convention, customary international law has enshrined obligations of the international community to prevent, suppress, and punish perpetrators of genocide. Akila Radhakrishnan, the Legal Director of the GJC, emphasized in an interview that “the prohibition on genocide is actually considered to be so widely important that it has attained an even higher status of customary international law called jus cogens,which means it is absolutely non-derogable in every context.” The United States, party to the Genocide Convention, is required by both international conventions and customary international law to take action against genocide. Declaring that ISIS is committing is relatively easy, but actually prosecuting ISIS poses a unique set of challenges in part due to their non-state actor status: logistical, legal, and otherwise.

The prosecution of ISIS for genocide raises numerous, difficult questions: first, what body should carry out trials? In a resolution released days prior to Kerry’s announcement, Congress indicated support for trial in an internationally-run court, such as the International Criminal Court, or an entirely new tribunal, would be the best course of action. The White House has yet to indicate a plan of prosecution. Similar questions of logistics, such as who to hold responsible and where to hold large numbers of detainees, have also been raised. The existence of a defined administrative hierarchy within ISIS raises questions as to what extent subordinates should be held accountable for acts planned by their superiors; however, this is a question that plagues most tribunals.

In terms of prosecuting foreign fighters, it will likely be easier for the United States to turn over detainees to Iraq, an ally, than to Syria, as the US has been supporting rebel groups wishing to oust President Bashar Assad. Since ISIS utilizes many foreign fighters, estimated at 27,000, the use of national jurisdiction over these fighters may open up opportunities for a case in the ICC, even though Iraq and Syria are not party to the Rome Statute, or domestic trials in the US if extradited. The final problem is one of evidence: genocide is a very difficult crime to prove. Due to the “specific intent” portion of the definition, more extensive evidence is required than general charges of crimes against humanity or war crimes. This means, in order to prosecute ISIS, there must be a careful collection of evidence, all while in an active war zone.

To successfully prosecute ISIS for crimes of genocide, the US and international community will have to parse through numerous complex challenges in the near future and focus their energy not on only combatting ISIS militarily, but also constructing a clear prosecutorial strategy.

Although prosecuting ISIS for crimes of genocide poses a unique set of challenges, they are not impossible to overcome. The United States and the global community have a duty to prosecute crimes of genocide under international humanitarian law. ISIS’ prosecution, with the US playing an active role, is of utmost importance, especially now that both the US and UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria have come to the consensus that ISIS is perpetuating genocide. Countries must engage with these challenges proactively and address them head on in order to make substantial progress towards prosecution.

Clickhere to read the full interview with Akila Radhakrishnan and Grant Shubin, lawyers at Global Justice Center, about the US’ declaration of ISIS’ genocide.