International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

ISIS and Retributive Justice

In the nation of Jordan, the past week has seen tremendous upheaval in response to a video released by the radical group ISIS which shows the barbaric execution of a Jordanian pilot.  ISIS’ tactic has always been to assert their power through shock and fear, and the video is certainly shocking and horrifying. It is similar in nature to videos of executions that the radical group has released in the past, except that the execution is significantly more brutal and inhuman. The people of Jordan are in outrage and many are calling for revenge, exactly the sort of reaction that international justice would seek to deter. However, it is important to consider that a paramount feature of Islamic law is the law of equal retaliation, or an eye for an eye. Although international law does not condone vengeance as justice, Islamic law creates a context in which the Jordanian people might feel justified in carrying out further violence against those who they view as perpetrators.


4 responses to “ISIS and Retributive Justice

  1. ckeefe2016 February 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Following the release of a horrific video that has sent shockwaves around the international community, showing the gruesome death of Jordanian pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh by burning him alive, Jordan had vowed to take action stating that “these people should be punished”. Today, ISIS has released an announcement confirming the death of their last American hostage, claiming that she was killed during a Jordanian air strike,. The hostage, was a 26 year aid worker who was captured in Syria in August 2013. There is a standing question of doubt over the cause of her death, as it has been concluded that ISIS had most likely killed Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh a month before releasing the propaganda video in order to discuss hostage negotiations concerning Sadija al-Rishawi. Many, including Jordan who is calling this news a PR stunt, believe that the hostage most likely had been executed already. It will be interesting to see the international responses to ISIS in the upcoming days, as the terrorist organization has infuriated many with their brutal actions concerning hostages, as well as their treatment of Iraqi children, which according to a UN report has involved the use of kids as suicide bombers, soldiers and slaves.

  2. snech February 6, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Jordan’s response to ISIS’ brutality against Jordanian prisoners seems to me exactly what ISIS wants to happen and not constructive to the ultimate demise of ISIS and ultimate ‘justice’ that would follow. It’s clear that torture of innocent humans is happening as ISIS has very clearly documented this. I’m curious about the international community’s involvement and how they plan on trying ISIS if it gets to that stage. This article* discusses the difficultly in using the ICC to prosecute ISIS because ISIS isn’t a state, per say, so it can’t submit itself to be investigated and it is unlikely that Syria will submit itself to be investigated. Iraq’s new government could grant the ICC jurisdiction and then warrants could be released or alternatively the USA could apply for warrants through the ICC. But since all of these things seem unlikely, the possibility that the ICC will try ISIS is low. Other options for justice include international tribunals, which are costly. Apprehending ISIS will be difficult, but as more and more countries are becoming angered towards them it seems like a fair way of reaching justice will be important and figuring out how to do that will be difficult.


  3. swashington February 8, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    It’s complicated to think about prosecuting ISIS for many reasons. One of the biggest difficulties I can think of is that ISIS is thought of more as a terrorist group rather than a state actor. Looking at the precedent set by the way that the US and other countries have dealt with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, it seems that the actions taken against these groups are more retaliation than “justice”. If justice is ever considered, it has been through individual states and their courts. The ICC can prosecute these groups for the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but individual states might want to prosecute terrorists for crimes committed against their own people . Prosecuting terrorists in the country where they committed the crimes might be more powerful for victims and citizens of the state in proving that justice has been served.

  4. ckoos February 21, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Determining how ISIS will be prosecuted poses challenges; specifically, jurisdictional issues and the non-state status of the group’s members. These problems become even more complicated by the ideas of Islamic law in Jordan, where the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality may prolong violence in the name of ‘justice.’

    ISIS has been condemned repeatedly for committing both crimes against humanity and war crimes; since 2012, many governments and organizations from around the world have paid groups in Syria to collect evidence to substantiate these claims. The Commission for International Justice and Accountability has made great progress exposing various human rights violations, by collecting official documents and holding interviews. According to William Wiley—who worked in the DRC, Rwanda, and Yugoslavia investigations— “we are collecting and analyzing with a view to share trial-ready case files as well as our expertise with any legitimate judicial body, international or national.” The question now is how to reconcile the inter-jurisdictional nature surrounding these atrocities.

    Neither Iraq nor Iran are signatories of the ICC, so it is largely accepted that the only way members of ISIS could be prosecuted is if the UN Security Council refers the case to the court. Despite heightened concern in the international community, the likelihood of this happening seems slim. (They could follow the precedent set in Cambodia—where the General Assembly encouraged the secretary general to work with Cambodia to prosecute the genocidal Khmer Rouge—but doing so could risk ‘creating political mischief elsewhere’). Not surprisingly, the permanent members of the UNSC have vetoed intervention four times.

    Nevertheless, it has been suggested that the ‘individual criminal liability’ statute of the ICC mandate, outlined in Article 25, could include members of ISIS despite their non-state status. Thus the ICC could exercise jurisdiction without a UNSC referral. Despite this loophole, it is clear that Syria will oppose any ICC involvement in the jurisdiction.

    As a result, there are now ongoing debates about prosecuting members of ISIS in the relatively stable region of Northern Iraq, where a notable ‘legal foundation’ remains and the ‘international conventions’ outlawing torture and genocide are largely observed. Ideally, Syria would be more compliant if members of ISIS were to be tried by Iraqi or Syrian court systems and prosecutors.

    Until a system has been established and accepted by the international community to try these perpetrators, it is likely that violence in the name of ‘justice’ will continue to escalate in Jordan and throughout the region. And unfortunately, due to the jurisdictional challenges and number of states and international actors involved in this process, it’s clear that a system won’t be agreed upon for many months to come.

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