Genocide

GJC’s new project focuses on the gendered components of genocide, specifically addressing non-killing genocidal acts which disproportionately affect women. In addition to mass killings, the 1948 Genocide Convention laid out four other types of genocidal actions that can be used to systematically destroy a religious or ethnic group: inflicting bodily or mental harm including rape and torture; denying access to basic necessities such as food and water; preventing births including through sterilization and forced abortion; and kidnapping and detaining children.

In the case of ISIS’s genocide of the Yazidi, we know that they are committing these crimes around sharply divided gender lines: killing older men & women and abducting young women and girls and enslaving them.

GJC is fighting for the international community, including the UN, EU and all 147 states that signed the Genocide Convention to recognize that genocide is happening, take immediate steps to prevent further genocide and suppress ongoing genocide, including fulfilling their duty to rescue women and girls who are being held captive, and to punish genocide by supporting prosecutions at the International Criminal Court.


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.

Download PDF

Listen to the fifth episode of "That's Illegal"

 

Listen to GJC's interview with Stephen Rapp,  former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes and a prosecutor for the Rwanda tribunal, who shares his insights and ideas on the prosecution of ISIS fighters for genocide in "Prosecuting Genocide," the fifth episode of our "That's Illegal!" podcast. 

Listen on iTunes and Soundcloud.

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. 

Download Letter

Download Submission

Listen to the fourth episode of "That's Illegal"

Listen to GJC staff and Sareta Ashraph, an internationally-recognized attorney and expert in the field, discuss the ongoing genocide committed by ISIS against the Yazidi in "Genocide and Justice," a two-part epside of our "That's Illegal!" podcast. 

Listen on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Women and Girls Deserve Equal Protection for Medical Services Under IHL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — May 15, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] -  Today, the UN Security Council holds its Open Debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence under Uruguay’s presidency. In the concept note, Uruguay reflected on the findings of the new UN Secretary-General’s report on how rape is used as a weapon of terrorism and genocide. They cited the example of the crimes Daesh is committing against ethnic minorities such as the Yazidi in North Iraq and Syria, including using rape as a non-killing crime of genocide. Yet, to date, no trial has been held to prosecute perpetrators of this ongoing genocide.

On Anniversary of Rwandan Genocide, GJC Calls on the International Community to Uphold the UN Genocide Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 7, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] - Today marks the 23rd Anniversary of the start of the Rwanda genocide when 80% of the Tutsi population in Rwanda was exterminated. Over the course of 100 days, up to a half million Tutsi women were raped, sexually mutilated or murdered. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda handed down the first conviction for the use of rape as an act of genocide.

Jordan Must Arrest Al-Bashir and End Impunity for Genocide and War Crimes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— March 29, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] - Yesterday, Jordan welcomed Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s President, for the Arab League’s annual summit. Bashir is attending despite two longstanding arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his actions in Darfur, including rape, murder, torture and extermination. He has been charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and has been a fugitive from the ICC since 2009.

Trump’s New Executive Order Banning Refugees & Immigrants Needlessly Harms Those Fleeing Violence & Conflict

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— March 6 2017

[NEW YORK] –   Today, Donald Trump signed a revised executive order extending his racist and xenophobic campaign promise—ban refugees and immigrants from largely Muslim countries. This ban is accompanied by a halt in taking in refugees and increased vetting protocols that can be used as a pretext to surveil and profile those who enter the United States.

First International Arrest Warrant for Genocide Against the Yazidi

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— February 14 2017

[NEW YORK] –   This weekend, the German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” reported that in December, the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office obtained an international arrest warrant for a high-ranking ISIS commander who according to sources was “significantly responsible to the sexual slavery of Yazidi women and girls.” The warrant for genocide and war crimes, would be the first international arrest warrant for what is an ongoing genocide against the Yazidi.

Statement by the Global Justice Center on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— January 27 2017

“For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing." - Simon Wiesenthal

[NEW YORK] 
–   Today, on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, the Global Justice Center calls on the international community to remember Holocaust victims by standing up to renewed anti-Semitism, hatred, racism, and discrimination. The Nazi ideology of race resulted in the systematic persecution and murder of six million Jews, and other groups such as the Roma, Slavic, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, LGBTI and persons with disabilities.

Trump’s Executive Order Banning Refugees & Immigrants Needlessly Harms Those Fleeing Violence & Conflict

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— January 27 2017

[NEW YORK] –   Today, Donald Trump followed through on one of his racist and xenophobic campaign promise—ban refugees and immigrants from largely Muslim countries. This ban is accompanied by a drastic reduction in the number of refugees the US will take and a series of other undefined and vague provisions that could be used as a pretext to surveil and profile those who enter the United States.

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.

Global Justice Center’s Statement on the Operation to Liberate Mosul

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—October 17, 2016

[NEW YORK, NY] - As the operation to liberate Mosul begins, all coalition actors should ensure that they uphold their obligations under international law to protect civilians and minimize the harm caused to them. Iraq is a party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. These treaties define how Iraqi forces, including the Peshmerga, must carry out military operations.

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.