Amal Clooney: ‘Yazidis in Iraq are IS genocide victims’

Amal Clooney today urged Iraq and the world’s nations not to let Isis “get away with genocide”, reports The Independent.

The human rights lawyer, who represents victims of Isis rapes and kidnappings, told a UN meeting that what’s “shocking” is not just the group’s brutality but the “passive” response by the world’s nations to the campaign to investigate its crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.

She urged Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send a letter to the UN Security Council so it can vote to set up an investigation into crimes by the group in Iraq where Isis once controlled about 40 per cent of the country’s territory but is now being routed by government and coalition forces.

“Justice is what the victims want…” Ms Clooney, who is the wife of actor George Clooney, said, “but justice will be forever out of reach if we allow the evidence to disappear, if mass graves are not protected, if medical evidence is lost, if witnesses can no longer be traced.”

Ms ​Clooney expressed frustration that nothing has happened since she came to the UN six months ago seeking accountability for victims of Isis.

“Killing Isis on the battlefield is not enough,” she said. “We must kill the idea behind Isis by exposing the brutality and bringing individual criminals to justice.”

Ms Clooney represents Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman captured by Isis in Iraq in 2014, who has spoken out since her release about being raped, sold as a sex slave, and praying for death while in captivity.

Ms Murad, now a goodwill ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, told the meeting that victims have patiently waited for over a year for the investigation of Isis to start “to be able to at least bury our dead”.

“Why it is taking so long?” she asked, her voice breaking with emotion. “I cannot understand why you are letting Isis get away with it, or what more you need to hear before you will act. So today, I ask the Iraqi government and the UN to establish an investigation and give all the victims of Isis the justice they deserve.

Ms ​Clooney addressed Mr Abadi saying it was initially Iraq’s idea to involve the UN and sending a letter “would silence those who doubt your commitment to bring Daesh [Isis] to justice”.

If no letter is forthcoming, she said the Security Council could act without Iraq’s consent, or it could refer the extremist group to the International Criminal Court, or the General Assembly could establish “an accountability mechanism” as it did for crimes in Syria in December. UN secretary general Antonio Guterres could also launch an investigation, she said.

“But none of this has happened,” Ms Clooney said. “Instead, mass graves in Iraq lie unprotected and un-exhumed, witnesses are fleeing and not one Isis militant has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world.”

She urged all countries “to stand up for justice” and demonstrate “moral leadership” to make sure that Isis is held accountable.

Britain’s UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the meeting he looks forward to finalising the Security Council resolution with Iraq “very, very soon”. He said the aim is to assist Iraq “with the difficult but crucial challenge of preserving the huge amount of evidence of Daesh [Isis] crimes committed on Iraqi territory.”

Watch the UN event addressed by Amal Clooney

Read the Independent article

The invitation to the UN event:

High-Level Event: “The Fight Against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice” 

Thursday, 9 March 2017 3:00 PM-5:00 PM, Trusteeship Council, United Nations, New York

On 19 September 2016 the foreign ministers of Belgium, Iraq and the United Kingdom co-hosted a side event during High-Level Week at the UN General Assembly to launch a campaign to bring Da’esh to justice. This campaign set out to support national and international efforts to ensure Da’esh and its followers are brought to justice; empower survivors of Da’esh crimes; and ensure that the pursuit of justice unites local, national and international communities. Six months since that first meeting, member states and civil society are invited to convene again and take stock of how efforts to bring Da’esh to justice are proceeding.

Da’esh not only represents a terrorist threat, its members have also committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. For example, in August 2016 the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that atrocities perpetrated by Da’esh “have been committed in a systematic and widespread manner, targeting and seeking to destroy the Yazidi group, in whole or in part.” Tragically, atrocity crimes continue to be perpetrated by Da’esh against vulnerable civilians, most notably in Iraq and Syria.

All UN member states have a responsibility to protect populations from genocide and other mass atrocity crimes, and to hold perpetrators accountable under international law. Ensuring accountability for these crimes is among the most effective means of preventing their recurrence. This meeting is an opportunity for member states to discuss steps towards delivering justice for Da’esh’s victims. The international community must send a unified message to Da’esh that there are costs for committing atrocities.

 Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

 H.E. Mr. Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom
 H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Permanent Representative of Iraq
 H.E. Mr. Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Permanent Representative of Belgium
 H.E. Mr. Michael Douglas Grant, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada
 H.E. Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sexual Violence in Conflict
 Ms. Nadia Murad, Yazidi Genocide Survivor, Human Rights Activist and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking
 Ms. Amal Clooney, Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Legal Representative for Nadia Murad and other Yazidi survivors

8 March post:

Amal Clooney, the lawyer acting on behalf of the Yazidis in Iraq, is calling for a formal investigation into Islamic State (IS) for the crime of genocide. She told the BBC’s Fiona Bruce why she decided to represent the Yazidis – an ethnic Kurdish group – and why their cause was so important to her. View news video

Maxine de Havenon last week wrote an article in the Brown Political Review headed ISIL and the ICC: Two Women’s Crusade Against the Islamic State

She explains “The first hurdle Clooney and Murad will have to jump is getting the case recommended to the ICC in the first place. There are three types of parties that can get a trial to the ICC: any state party to the Rome Statute, the UN Security Council, or the Chief Prosecutor of court itself. However, so far none of these groups have made any effort to advocate for a case regarding any of ISIL’s members. In fact, in 2015 the chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that while she had received many calls for a formal investigation into the “crimes of unspeakable cruelty” committed by the Islamic State, the ICC had little jurisdictional power over the organization itself due to its problematic geographic location.

The unprecedented strategy of holding a terrorist, non-state actor accountable for their crimes in a court of law raises many controversial questions regarding the level of jurisdiction and punitive power the court holds, and the ICC — in its already weakened condition regarding its level of authority and effectiveness over the international community — may not step effectively up to the task.

The main measure blocking legal action comes from the fact that neither Iraq nor Syria (the two states in which ISIL holds the most authority and land) are party to the Rome Statute. This problem precludes a member state referring itself or a body within it to the ICC. It also seriously reduces the chance of a Security Council referral to the ICC because Russia, an ally of Iraq, would likely exercise its veto power as a permanent member to block its advancement. In response to these conditions, Murad and Clooney announced that they hope to sway the UN’s overall opinion in favor of a recommendation through the creation of an “ISIS Commission,” which would “put forth a proposal for the UN Security Council to send a team of investigators to Iraq to gather evidence that can later be used in international criminal court and by national prosecutors.” It has yet to be seen whether this commission will come to fruition.”

The full article

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters pushed Iraq on Thursday 9 March to allow a United Nations investigation into crimes by the militant group.

Britain is drafting a United Nations Security Council resolution to establish a U.N. investigation, but Clooney said the Iraqi government needs to send a letter formally requesting the inquiry before the 15-member council can vote.

Islamic State is committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq to destroy the minority religious community through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes, U.N. experts reported in June last year.

Clooney, who represents Nadia Murad and other Yazidi victims of Islamic State, said that despite public support by Iraq for a U.N. investigation, the government has not yet made a request.

“We do want to see an investigation take place with the cooperation of the Iraqi authorities,” Clooney told Reuters in an interview after speaking at a United Nations event on accountability for crimes committed by Islamic State.

“But ultimately if that support is not forthcoming in terms of real action, then the U.N. has to think of other ways in which to achieve accountability,” she said.

[Reuters, 9 March]