On April 30, GJC Staff Attorney Grant Shubin's Letter to the Editor was published in the New York Times, in response to their article, "A 10-Minute Trial, a Death Sentence: Iraqi Justice for ISIS Suspects."
On April 30, GJC Staff Attorney Grant Shubin's Letter to the Editor was published in the New York Times, in response to their article, "A 10-Minute Trial, a Death Sentence: Iraqi Justice for ISIS Suspects."
In light of the gender dynamics at the root of Daesh’s violence, gender must also be at the center of accountability. With justice for Daesh beginning, this Briefing details how Iraq’s current legal framework precludes meaningful justice for women and girls. It highlights the gender gaps in Iraq’s criminal laws and identifies opportunities for broader reform to better protect Iraqi women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence.
For years the world watched in collective horror as Daesh committed brutal atrocities. Central to this violence was sexual and gender-based violence, with explicit targeting of women and girls. Daesh used rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage and torture—distinct crimes on their own as well as constituent elements of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes—as tools for recruitment, conversion, forced indoctrination, and the fundamental destruction of community cohesion.1 For many, the only thing that stood in opposition to these crimes was the prospect, however far away, of justice.
Justice, however, is complex. It requires accountability, redress and a focus on preventing the recurrence of violations. Justice efforts must be independent, credible, inclusive, and accepted by impacted communities, with special respect and recognition for the dignity of victims. Importantly, and as this Briefing illustrates, it must reflect the full scope and scale of the crimes that occurred.
As the international community and the Iraqi government begin the process of holding members of Daesh accountable for their crimes, it is critical to examine the legal systems that will be responsible for these prosecutions. Prosecutions to date, which have all been conducted under Iraq’s 2005 counter-terrorism law, have failed human rights standards and do not suffice the interest of justice.
This Briefing highlights one such example—specifically how Iraq’s current laws fall far short of the requirements for justice, as they are unable to punish the most egregious of Daesh’s gender crimes. Iraq’s Penal Code is a patriarchal patchwork rooted in preexisting peacetime gender inequalities and violence.2 The way and manner in which the Code defines sexual and gender-based violence crimes is steeped in language and perspectives that are inherently and overtly discriminatory against women and fall short of international standards. Any justice mechanism organized under these laws will fail to provide full accountability and redress to Daesh’s female victims.
In order to highlight these challenges, this Briefing: (i) identifies particular categories of Daesh’s gender crimes and considers how these crimes are currently codified in Iraqi law; (ii) details the gaps where Iraq’s laws do not entirely capture the ways in which Daesh committed sexual and gender-based violence; and (iii) describes international standards for defining and understanding the many facets of these crimes.
A complete reckoning with the planned and inherently gendered elements of Daesh’s violence is essential for Iraq to begin the transition out of armed conflict. These first steps of putting this history behind it must provide justice for victims, combat these victims’ marginalization, and prevent future violations against women, girls and other communities targeted on behalf of their gender.
Thursday, the Pakistani police arrested 25 people in relation to an honor raping of a teenage girl. The unofficial council of a rural village ordered a man to publicly rape a 16-year-old girl as revenge for the girl’s brother supposedly raping the man’s 12-year-old sister. The village council, who ruled that the vengeance rape was an appropriate punishment, was arrested. Such councils are a now illegal but still widely used part of the panchayat system, an informal village governance system that often prescribes stonings, forced marriages and other punishments in disputes related to women. Authorities acted on this crime after it was reported to the new Violence Against Women Center.
Thursday, The Guardian published a timeline of landmark moments in the fight for women’s reproductive rights and health.
Sunday, in recent weeks, a social media campaign has been calling for a change to the silencing of Afghan women’s names. It is taboo for men to mention the names of their wives or female relatives in public—in fact, women’s names are rarely used in the public sphere at all (even in a doctor’s prescription). The #WhereIsMyName campaign is sparking discussion about women’s lack of public identities in Afghanistan.
Monday, Tunisia passed a law outlawing violence against women. The law will make it easier to prosecute sexual harassment and domestic abuse. The law is broad, also outlawing economic discrimination and psychological abuse, which proponents say will help prevent, in addition to punish, violence against women. While Tunisia’s marry-your-rapist laws have largely fallen out of use, this legislation also officially abolished them. Jordan also repealed its marry-your-rapist law on Wednesday.
Tuesday, to learn about the broad impact of the Global Gag Rule, read the stories of several women who were traumatized by war and will be further harmed by the Global Gag Rule. While intended to cut U.S. funding for aid organizations that perform or talk about abortion, organizations—many of which primarily offer services unrelated to abortion—are forced to reduce services or shut down. This is impacting the safety, health, psychological wellbeing and more of women across the world. Last week’s International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science expressed concerns that the Global Gag Rule, along with President Donald Trump’s proposed 20% cuts to HIV programs, could result in 90,000 additional AIDS-related deaths next year.
Thursday, abortion rights groups—including the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood— filed a lawsuit against Texas over new abortion restrictions. Six weeks ago, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, which bans the most common and safe type of second-trimester abortion. It also requires healthcare providers to bury or cremate fetal remains, whether they’re from abortions, stillbirth or miscarriages. The lawsuit seeks an injunction and a ruling that the law is unconstitutional. Seven other states have created similar bans, and legal challenges have been filed against the bans in three. This is the third time this year that Texas has defended its abortion restrictions in federal court.
Friday, The New York Times reported on how nondisparagement agreements hide sexual harassment in the workplace by creating a culture of secrecy. They are becoming increasingly common and are often included in the standard employment contracts of many industries, especially the tech industry. They can have a chilling effect that prevents women from speaking up or taking legal action on harassment. Harassers are able to continue their behavior, and women are unable to know the history of their workplaces and colleagues.
Saturday, across the Middle East, public awareness campaigns are pushing to repeal marry-your-rapist laws—laws that allow rapists to avoid criminal prosecution by marrying their victims. The laws are based on ideas that a family’s honor depends on a woman’s chastity, and marriage after a rape can avoid scandal for the family. Activism and women’s education have propelled the movement against the laws. Morocco repealed their law in 2014, and votes are coming in Lebanon and Jordan.
Tuesday, the Guardian published an extended feature piece on Yazidi women. It shares the stories of women who were there when ISIS carried out a mass abduction of women that led to institutionalized rape. It also focuses on the way the Yazidi women are continuing a long history of resistance. “It was only much later in my reporting on how some Yazidi women managed to escape and return,” Cathy Otten writes, “that I became aware of how important stories of captivity and resistance were to dealing with trauma, both historically and in relation to Isis.”
Tuesday, Gillian Triggs, outgoing President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said that human rights in Australia are “regressing on almost every front” and the government is “ideologically opposed to human rights.” She attributed the worsening human rights treatment to Australia’s lack of a bill of rights, causing the courts to be “very, very hamstrung in standing up for human rights.” She also said that counterterrorism legislation is centralizing government power and impeding on human rights without judicial supervision.
Thursday, over 180 Yazidi women and children captured by ISIS have been liberated since the operation to recapture Mosul began last year. As time goes on, they are coming home with increasing psychological and physical damage. Most women are in shock and sleep for days after their return. Many women are also showing “an unusual degree of indoctrination.”
Photo credit: Australia Human Rights Commission Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)
Wednesday, Turkey detained eleven human rights defenders near Istanbul. The activists were attending a workshop on protecting the work of human rights groups when Turkish police arrested them on the baseless suspicion of belonging to an “armed terrorist organization,” and they are still in custody. Two are leaders of Amnesty International Turkey.
Friday, the Financial Times explored Brexit’s impact on women. The British government drew attention last month because of the lack of women on their negotiating team (two of the twelve negotiators at the initial meeting were women), but concerns extend beyond that. Laws on women’s rights might change with Brexit, particularly if Britain is no longer under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. This could remove decades of progressive decisions on issues including equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, and sex discrimination laws.
Saturday, in an article about the Afghan province Ghor, The New York Times described what happens when the law provides no protection for women. Ghor’s weak rule of law and their marriage customs leave women vulnerable. There have been 118 registered cases of violence against women in the past year—with many more going unreported—and zero suspects in these 118 cases have been arrested. Extreme stories of women being abducted, shot, stoned to death and more have emerged from the province in recent years. Law officials say they have to balance justice with security when sharing borders with violent, Taliban-occupied territories.
Monday, Oregon’s legislature passed one of the most progressive pieces of reproductive rights legislation in the country. The Reproductive Health Equity Act requires health insurance to cover, at no cost to patients, a number of reproductive health services such as abortion, contraception and prenatal and postnatal care. Religious employers can opt out of covering abortion and contraception. It also reaffirms Oregon citizens’ rights to an abortion, protecting them from possible changes in federal law. The bill will now go to Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat who is supportive of reproductive rights.
Tuesday, in retaliation against the United States’ Global Gag Rule, Sweden’s development agency announced it will no longer give funding for sexual and reproductive health services to organizations that follow the Gag Rule. Sweden is also allocating new funds to organizations that agree to not follow the Gag Rule.
Wednesday, Buddhists protested the arrival of a UN human rights envoy to Myanmar. The envoy is on an information-gathering trip in the Rakhine state to investigate security forces’ human rights abuses against the Muslim Rohingya minority. The protestors said Yanghee Lee, who is leading the envoy, is too “one-sided.” Earlier this summer, Lee recommended a special UN mission to investigate the problems in Rakhine, which the Human Rights Council approved; however, Myanmar wouldn’t allow the mission members to enter the country.
Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is re-examining the college sexual assault policies instituted under Title IX during the Obama administration. She is meeting with victims of sexual assault, men accused of assault, and higher education officials. Obama’s policies sparked a backlash from some who believed the policies and investigations went too far in ignoring the rights of the accused.
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.
Monday, President Trump is vowing to drastically cut finding for aid programs in developing countries and merge the State Department with USAID. The money slashed from aid programs will be transferred to national security programs. The cut in funding will also affect programs and offices that promote women’s rights and foreign assistance.
Tuesday, the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women has approved Saudi Arabia as a new member of the Commission for the 2018-2022 term. While it received the lowest number of votes when considering a new member, it is still enough to pass the majority threshold. This led to an outrage among human rights activists who say that Saudi Arabian laws repress women. Some, however, see it as an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to reform its laws and for people working to promote women’s rights to find support from leading international organizations.
Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus gave its approval to a more conservative version of ACA, giving the Republicans another opportunity to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act. One of the latest proposals allows “states to obtain waivers from federal mandates that insurers cover certain “essential health benefits,” like emergency services, maternity care, and mental health and substance abuse services, which many Republicans argue have driven up premiums.” As for reproductive healthcare, the article does not mention any new developments, which is not to say that the new healthcare plan will have the same benefits as Obamacare.
Wednesday, the US is expected to announce revised global gag rule implementation guidelines, which can potentially lead to slashing of approximately $8 billion in U.S. international health assistance. As many global healthcare organizations, including those that offer abortions, rely on US funding, the new guidelines will negatively affect the ability to provide crucial healthcare to women in need. However, there is not guarantee that all NGOs will comply with the new guidelines.
Tuesday, researchers asked what helps to establish a democratic society? According to a study published by the European Journal of Political Research, it is increased women’s rights that helps a country become more democratic. When women have access to political and social rights and representation, it aids democratic development and helps a country transition from an authoritarian regime.
Wednesday, despite the recent elections in the Netherlands, the “She Decides” fund for family planning is still receiving support from the new leadership and expects support to continue on a national level and international level. Recently, Iceland and Slovenia have joined the campaign and have promised to contribute a total of $190,000. Still, there is a long way to go before the fund reaches its $600 million annual goal to support organizations that will no longer receive financial support from the U.S. due to the expanded Global Gag rule.
Thursday, following the U.S. airstrike against a Syrian air force base on April 7, President Trump was met with both support and criticism. The question that concerns the critics is whether the airstrike is legal by international law standards and whether it constitutes an act of aggression. There are only two justifications for the use of force under international law and Trump’s strike does not meet either criterion.
Thursday, President Trump signed legislation that will cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion services. This measure nullifies a rule that was put in place by President Obama that barred states and local governments from cutting funding for family planning services. While President Trump’s decision has been met with approval from conservatives, there is widespread opposition. Human rights and women’s rights activists worry of the repercussions of the lack of funding for women’s healthcare.
Friday, following the inauguration of President Trump, women across the nation have united to oppose and fight back against new rules and regulations imposed by the Trump administration. Female activists are attempting to maintain the progress that has been made with the Obama administration and encourage more women to join the mobilization against the new President through protest and democratic ideals.
Sunday, this interactive New York Times article shows the harsh reality of women and children who are fleeing continuous violence brought on by Boko Haram in the Diffa area of Niger. Many settle along the only highway in the region where they are far away from a water source and with limited access to schooling and healthcare.
Monday, the Trump administration announced that it will be terminating funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the leading global provider for family planning services. This is a harsh blow to women and children in the developing world and to advocates for reproductive health care as most of their funding comes from the US and UN.
Monday, President Trump signed an executive order that revokes the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, which demands fair pay and safe workplaces for women. This order is deemed a counter-progressive measure and negates “hard-fought” victories for women in the workplace.
Tuesday, with recent political decisions made by President Trump undermining U.S.’s leadership in human rights advocacy, former diplomats worry that human rights are not of much importance to the Trump administration. Furthermore, when the US loosens its grip on human rights leadership, many people suffer because of the lack of funding and loss of support for organizations that provide health care.
Friday, following the toxic gas attack in Syria and the UN council meeting to discuss Assad’s regime, the US missile airstrike on a Syrian air base garners outrage as people declare it a violation of international law.
Tuesday, Republicans are having and will continue to have trouble repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The reality is that the Republicans do not have a credible, alternative health care plan and continuing to criticize ACA is turning away groups of people that depend on Obamacare. More and more people are supporting ACA and the Republicans are having trouble garnering support for getting rid of it. However, Republicans can still repeal certain aspects of ACA and that includes Birth Control coverage. This means that birth control will no longer be cost free as it has been under Obamacare.
Tuesday, the article encourages the Australian government to take action to support Australian women who will suffer from the Global Gag Rule, citing the issues that may arise from the lack of funding and access to health care and health benefits.
Wednesday, despite reassurance that women’s health is on Trump’s agenda, benefits and funds are still being slashed for women’s health organizations and charities. This is resulting in various protests around the globe and even prompting female Democrats to wear white during Trump’s speech to Congress.
Thursday, more and more countries are joining the fight against the Global Gag Rule. The “She Decides” conference that is held in Brussels this week is a platform of powerful leaders that seek to raise $600m. According to news sources, around 50 governments will attend the conference to raise funds. There will be representatives from Canada, UK, Afghanistan and Chad and other countries who are standing up for women’s rights and availability of reproductive healthcare.
Thursday, after further investigations, the United Nations declared that all Syrian sides that fought in Aleppo committed war crimes. According to Dawn, there is proof from the investigation that a humanitarian convoy was deliberately targeted in Aleppo province on September 19. These recent events have also attracted the attention of many human rights workers who want to bring to the public’s attention that Syrian civilians are often targeted and that the “warring parties” do not fear consequences for their actions regardless of the international laws that are put into place.
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.
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.
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 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.
On June 19, as the international community observes the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, rape remains a central reality of war for women and girls around the world.
War rape is both a historical and contemporary part of war: it is not simply a byproduct of fighting but often serves as a central military tactic. In Yugoslavia in the 1990s, “the systematic rape of women … [was] in some cases intended to transmit a new ethnic identity to the child.” Yugoslav women were “often […] interned until it was too late for them to undergo an abortion,” thereby ensuring the creation of a new ethnic reality.
Today, in ISIS controlled territories, ISIS leaders “elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.” Multiple accounts by former ISIS captives detail month-long rapes, severe physical and mental trauma, and forced pregnancies.
War rape thus serves to traumatize and create fear in the short term and to extend genocidal effects by producing new ethnic identities in the long term.
Yet despite the horrific psychological and biological results of war rape the United States’ Helms Amendment precludes any US humanitarian aid from being used for abortion services.
Even though the Hyde Amendment, a similar domestic amendment to the Helms Amendment, includes exceptions for rape and cases in which the mother’s health is in danger, foreign victims of war rape are not afforded these rights.
In 2015, Obama noted that the “Golden Rule,” that “seems to bind people of all faiths,” is to “treat one another as we wish to be treated,” — to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” If victims of war rape are to receive the medical care they deserve, the Obama Administration must apply this Golden Rule not only to domestic victims of rape, but to war rape victims in other countries as well.This involves recognizing their rights to non-discriminatory medical treatment and issuing an executive order that limits the scope of the Helms Amendment.
Janet Benshoof, GJC President, responds to an article in the NY Times, “Lack of Plan for ISIS Detainees Raises Human Rights Concerns” (front page, May 12).
Read Global Justice Center Legal Director Akila Radhakrishnan’s explanation of the gender components of genocide in the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect Blog.
“It’s not enough to just recognize that acts such as sexual violence, abductions, enslavement, forced abortion, and forced impregnation—acts which are disproportionately committed against women—of protected groups can constitute genocide. Rather, the commission of such acts needs to impel action for states and international actors to fulfill their obligations to prevent, suppress and punish genocide. "
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 5, 2016
[STRASBOURG, FRANCE] – In an historic resolution, the European Parliament yesterday recognized ISIS’ ongoing atrocities against religious minorities as genocide. The resolution is the first time the Parliament called on parties, including EU Member States, to fulfill their duties under the UN Genocide Convention during an ongoing conflict.
Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice just released a Special Issue of their newsletter focusing on two letters GJC has sent to the ICC asking them to address gender-based crimes. The letters call on the ICC to look at the genocidal crimes being committed against women and girls by groups like Boko Haram and ISIS.
Click here to read the full newsletter.