Mass Atrocity Crimes

This program aims to ensure that individuals and states are held accountable for the commission of gender-based mass atrocities, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.


Call the crimes against the Rohingya what they are: Genocide

GJC's Deputy Legal Director, Grant Shubin, published a letter to the editor in the Washington Post, in response to UN Secretary-General António Guterres' article "The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them."

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres was right in his July 11 op-ed, “The chilling stories of the Rohingya,” to indict the international community for failing the Rohingya. His plea for more concerted international action could not be more timely or necessary. However, his appeal did not go as far as it should have. He failed to name the crimes against the Rohingya for what they are: genocide.

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Rebuilding Iraq Should Include Mental Health Care for Yazidi Survivors

By Maftuna Saidova

The Yazidi community are an ethnic minority formerly located in northern Iraq. They are one of the groups who suffered under the brutal and inhumane control of ISIS. When ISIS captured Sinjar, they abducted thousands of Yazidi women and sold them into slavery within the lucrative sex trade created among ISIS fighters. Human rights activists and lawyers have demanded ISIS be held accountable for employing Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) as a weapon of war. According to OHCHR, SGVB can include “any harmful act directed against individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender,” including rape, sexual abuse, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, forced abortion, forced prostitution, and sexual enslavement.  Although many Yazidi survivors are now free and Iraq has regained territorial control, adequate mental health treatment should be the priority of the Iraqi government as the treatment of the survivors is crucial for Iraq’s gradual rebuilding process.

Iraq’s Criminal Laws Preclude Justice For Women And Girls

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.

Introduction

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. 

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The Global Justice Center Calls for Action on the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -December 9, 2017

[NEW YORK] Today, on the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, the Global Justice Center warns that the promise of “Never Again” is being broken in conflicts around the world in places such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Myanmar.

GJC Welcomes Verdict by ICTY Convicting Ratko Mladić for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -November 22, 2017

[NEW YORK] –  The Global Justice Center (GJC) welcomes the historic verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of Ratko Mladić for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mladić was convicted of genocide and persecution, extermination, murder, the inhumane act of forcible transfer, terror, unlawful acts against civilians and hostage taking.

Human Rights Org Send Open Letter to Iraqi Prime Minister on establishing an Investigative Team for Crimes Committed by Daesh, including Yazidi Genocide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October, 30 2017

[NEW YORK and BAGHDAD] –  Today, the Global Justice Center along with the Eyzidi Organization for Documentation, the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, the Iraqi Women Network, Madre and Yazda sent a joint open letterto the Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider al-Abadi regarding the Terms of Reference currently being drafted for UN Security Council Resolution 2379 (2017).

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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Read Full Letter in Arabic

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 the situation in Rakhine State, Myanmar

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 9, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] - In light of ongoing violence in Rakhine State, the Global Justice Center issues the following statement: 

The Global Justice Center calls for the immediate cessation of all acts of violence and the protection of civilian populations in Rakhine State. The Myanmar government must swiftly investigate credible reports of horrific crimes and human rights abuses against civilians in Rakhine State, including acts by its own military and security forces, and provide meaningful punishment, redress and reparations for violations. The government must allow investigators access to Rakhine State and cooperate fully with international investigations, including the UN Fact-finding Mission authorized by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017. Further, the government must ensure the safety of all civilians, including the Rohingya population, and facilitate humanitarian access and aid to affected communities. 

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.

Seeking Justice for the Yazidi on the World Day for International Justice

By Marie Wilken

After the Holocaust, the world said “never again.” The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, and 142 countries have ratified it since. But we have not fulfilled that promise to prevent and punish. Through genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Darfur and more, millions have died because the international community failed to act sooner. History views this inaction with regret and shame. We hope that we would’ve done better, cared more, acted faster. But we are not.

Right now, ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidi, a religious and ethnic minority in Syria and Iraq. This genocide began with ISIS’s 2014 attack on Sinjar. They killed men and boys and kidnapped, trafficked and raped women and girls. Over 3,000 women and girls remain in captivity. ISIS’s enslavement and rape of these women is prosecutable as genocide under international humanitarian law. In fact, there is evidence that ISIS has committed all five genocidal crimes. The UN recognized it as genocide and urged stronger international action. Last year, the Obama administration also acknowledged that ISIS was committing genocide.

Yet little has been done about it. Today is the World Day for International Justice, which celebrates the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the international criminal justice system. However, this system has been underutilized. To prove that the international criminal justice system can be a force for justice, not merely a hollow ideal, the ICC needs to investigate atrocities like the Yazidi genocide.

While showing good intentions is easy, it’s difficult to take action. Political interests often interfere, and the method of prosecution raises numerous questions and challenges. Counter-terrorism concerns are often conflated with or prioritized over action on ISIS’s genocide—but it is important to combat ISIS’s genocide as well as, or along with, terrorism. We do not have to choose between pursuing justice for the Yazidi and security for the rest of the world. Experts discussed this in GJC’s Brain Trust, Reconciling International Laws on Genocide and Counter-Terrorism, last month. Participants agreed that the counterterrorism framework fits today’s model of international cooperation better than the framework of the Genocide Conventions, and it is easier for prosecutors to use a terrorism lens. However, this can ignore the gendered impact of the genocide. In addition to providing justice for the Yazidi community, genocide prosecution would help delegitimize ISIS and combat its terrorism.

The World Day for International Justice should be a reminder that we need to not only recognize ISIS’s treatment of the Yazidi as genocide but also treat it as such. Inaction not only hurts the Yazidi today, but it could also worsen situations in the future. Brain Trust participants discussed how impunity could encourage future discrimination against communities like the Yazidi. It widens the gap between law and action on genocide, and sending a message that the international community can or will not act on genocide could spur similar tragedies in the future.

We are all bystanders to this genocide, and we determine whether this will go down in history as another failure to meet the legal and moral obligation to prevent genocide. Genocide is not a problem of the past; it is our problem and our opportunity to do better.

To celebrate the World Day for International Justice, GJC released a podcast on prosecuting genocide. We interviewed Stephen Rapp, a lawyer who has helped prosecute genocide, including in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and served as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice. Listen to this episode of That’s Illegal! on iTunes or Soundcloud, and read outcomes document from our Brain Trust here.

Photo credit: OSeveno (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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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