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.
“We must learn the lessons of Rwanda and Yugoslavia and not wait to act until it is too late,” says Global Justice Center President, Janet Benshoof. “Genocide must be recognized and prosecuted while it is happening, not years after the fact.”
After World War II, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations and has been ratified by 143 countries. As a result, the international community has a duty to act to prevent, suppress and punish genocide, even when where they are not directly affected by it. This duty is customary international law binding on all states, including the United States, countries in the EU, Iraq and Syria.
In March, the United States recognized ISIS’s ongoing genocide and in June the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria concluded that ISIS’s crimes committed against the Yazidi constitute genocide, including through gendered non-killing crimes such as rape and sexual enslavement.
“It is now time for other states, including the EU, to follow the example set by the United States and UN to recognize this genocide and begin taking actions to end it,” says Benshoof. “This includes rescuing the over 3,000 women and girls still in ISIS captivity.”
“I was not raised to give speeches,” said Yazidi activist, Nadia Murad Basee who was held captive by ISIS. “Neither was I born to meet world leaders, nor to represent a cause so heavy, so difficult,” she said. But, she continued, she does, “so that one day we can look our abusers in the eye in a court in The Hague and tell the world what they have done to us,” she said. “So my community can heal. So I can be the last girl to come before you.”
“There are strong international precedents on prosecuting genocide, including for rape as an act of genocide in Rwanda, that must be upheld,” says Benshoof. “Given the rise of nationalism around the world, the international community coming together to stop genocide and uphold the values of diversity and tolerance would send a strong and much needed message. The perpetrators of these atrocities should not be killed in counter-terrorism measures, they should be seen in court being held accountable for their crimes.”
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