Working to get ISIS crimes against Yazidi before the ICC

21 September 2016 by Janet H. Anderson

Just days ago Yazidi Nadia Murad who survived an attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS also known as ISIS) on the Yazidi community of northern Iraq and Amal Clooney, her lawyer, spoke to the UN about the need for justice for the Yazidis, forced out of their ancient homelands around Mount Sinjar.

Murad – who has just been appointed the UN’s goodwill ambassador on human trafficking – described how her family were killed in massacres conducted by ISIS during 2014, how she and other Yazidi women suffered when captured and held by ISIS fighters and how more than 2,000 Yazidi women are still being held captive. Clooney called on the UN to support calls for a genocide prosecution against the perpetrators at the International Criminal Court. Evidence – mainly refugee statements – has been sent to The Hague by Murad’s own organization Yazda, supported by former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. These efforts are part of the “It's On U” campaign using interlocking strategies aimed at an ICC prosecution of ISIS for genocide.

Janet Anderson spoke to Joanna Frivet, British-based barrister, who has travelled to the region and refugee camps where Yazidis are now living, to gather evidence for a potential prosecution. 

Mass grave west of Shingal town, Kurdistan, Iraq (Photo: Flickr/Seth Franzman)
Image caption: 
Teenager's soccer shirt and jaw bone found in mass grave west of Shingal town, Kurdistan, Iraq (Photo: Flickr/Seth Franzman)

What’s the extent and the nature of the crimes you are investigating? 

Joanna Frivet (JF): In the Sinjar area we are talking about a total population of about 80,000 Yazidi but that figure dates back to 2013.  A number of them have been victims of serious crimes, including in the month of August 2014 when about seven hundred men were killed in one incident. Overall throughout the area we have an estimate of about 2,000 Yazidi men being killed. According to UN reports we still have an estimated 2,500 Yazidi women and children currently in captivity. 

When they arrived in the Yazidi villages, ISIS rounded up the population and put them in local schools or other buildings. They separated the men from the women.  They examined the males, checking their armpits to see if they were grown up or not. So the young boys who did not have pubic hair yet were left with the women.  And the men who were older than that were grouped together and taken away,  summarily executed and buried in mass graves.

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