Has genocide really taken place during Islamic State’s systematic attacks on Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East? If the matter is not be referred to the ICC, which court might be able to determine whether genocide has taken place or not?
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may have committed all three of the most serious international crimes — namely war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. In a report, the OHCHR describes in horrifying detail killings, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers by the extremists.
The manifest pattern of the attacks against the Yezidi “pointed to the intent of ISIL to destroy the Yezidi as a group”, says the report. This “strongly suggests” that ISIL may have perpetrated genocide.
The report urges the Iraqi government to join the ICC and incorporate these international crimes into Iraqi domestic law. It also calls on the Human Rights Council to urge the UN Security Council to address, “in the strongest terms, information that points to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” and to consider referring the situation in Iraq to the ICC.
The report, based on interviews with more than 100 witnesses and survivors of attacks in Iraq between June 2014 and February 2015, highlights brutal ISIL attacks on ethnic and religious groups, including Yezidis, Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and Shia.
Many Yezidi women and girls were sold into sexual slavery or handed over to ISIL members as “gifts”, the report said, adding that witnesses had described hearing girls as young as six screaming for help as they were raped in a house used by ISIL fighters. Boys as young as eight were forced to convert to Islam and given religious and military training. According to the report, they were also forced to watch videos of beheadings.
- Where does the ICC preventive mechanism(s) fit into these atrocities?
- If the matter is referred to the ICC, who would guarantee that either the Iraqi government or other governments in the region cooperate since the ICC has no police to enforce its judgments?
- If the Iraqi courts are unable or unwilling to try these crimes, why doesn’t the Iraqi government join the ICC and refer the matter under the complementarity principle which is enshrined under the Rome Statute?
Dr. Meddy is a Tanzanian cartoonist who works for Cartoon Movement.