International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

ISIL Charged with War Crimes

Recent reports to the UN have exposed the issues in the Islamic state in Iraq from the group ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) that include genocidal acts such as, ” killings, torture, rape and sexual slavery, forced religious conversions and the conscription of children.”  The goal of the ISIL is to destroy the Yezidi people as a whole, the perpetrators being militia groups who may be associated with the Iraqi government.The reports include information from over 100 witnesses and survivors of attacks, who were from many different religious groups. The severity of the issues point to the Iraqi government, who the people counted on for support and stability, but instead received the opposite by the government destroying entire villages.

This situation of government involvement in militia groups likens to that of Boko Haram, with the Nigerian government also facing speculation of involvement with the violent militia groups.  Additionally, the government’s idea that villages tarnished with one Boko Haram member should be massacred, is also similar to this situation.

Finally, the report will call the attention of the ICC, as it calls on the Iraqi government to adopt the Rome Statute because the atrocities are up for charges under Iraqi law.


4 responses to “ISIL Charged with War Crimes

  1. oconnorg March 21, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    If this case were to be referred to the ICC, one of the issues the Court would face in their investigations would be that of victor’s justice. In other words, the Court would have to choose indictees effectively and even-handedly by identifying the most responsible perpetrators from each side of the conflict situation. For example, if the Court were only to prosecute the “big fish” from ISIL, it would deny justice to the Iraqi people in areas that have been liberated from ISIL but still subject to violence done by the Iraqi military. Prosecuting Iraqi military officials would be particularly hard, since the government is not party to the Rome Statute and has no reason to comply with the Court. Compounding this issue is the fact that the Court does not have any enforcement power (aside from various diplomatic tactics it could employ), and without the cooperation of the international community it would certainly face difficulty carrying out arrests of indictees in the future. The region in which ISIL operates is historically war-torn, and many international actors might be hesitant to get involved in an arrest that could further exacerbate violence and conflict. Countries such as the United States, Canada and Jordan have already engaged in the fight against ISIL, but so many boots on the ground might also defer justice for the victims of ISIL. In other words, justice may not be carried out until the conflict situation has run its course, but the astonishing violence and growing influence of ISIL (Boko Haram recently pledged its allegiance to the group) does not indicate that the group will soon be easily ousted.

  2. ncullen27 March 24, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I agree with much of what oconorg has stated above, that ISIL on trial at the ICC would be a daunting task, but I also believe that despite the inevitable challenges that would be present, it would set an important precedent. The Nuremberg Trials were the first to establish this precedent, the need of putting perpetrators of (which can now be called atrocity) crimes on trial, in order to differentiate from the past and attempt to provide judicial and impartial justice.

    It is true that Victor’s justice would be a significant bias to try and overcome, as we have discussed in class, victor’s justice seems to be present or perceived as being present in many if not all cases. However, a trial could bring closure to victims as well as the international community. A trial would hopefully quell motivations for vengeance and and instead provide judicial closure and clarification.

    Because it would likely be a post-conflict trial means that the length of time, unlikeliness of indictee arrest, and potential instability in the post-conflict region contribute to argument against it. Perhaps a truth commission, or something like it, would prove more pragmatic and beneficial. As we discussed in class, truth commissions are often victim centric, but can also provide a platform for perpetrators to express themselves as well. In the case of ISIL, many Syrians join and stay for the camaraderie that ISIL provides, rather than the religion.

  3. mcurle15 March 26, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I agree with the point that oconnorg made about how prosecuting Iraqi military officials would be especially hard. Not only is the Iraqi government not included in the Rome Statute, but the ICC would really have no teeth in enforcing power or restrictions of behavior in the Iraqi State regardless of the alleged atrocity crimes committed. If the ICC did in fact take up this case and arrest warrants were granted–high-level perpetrators that travelled outside of Iraq would have the potential to be arrested by a country beholden to the Rome Statute. This diplomatic tactic would be effective, but only if other State parties cooperated with the arrest warrants granted by the ICC. The ICC would be too dependent on other parties and the international community, especially with no police force, to implement a solid seizure of the perpetrators.

    Not only would the international community have to be overwhelmingly cooperative in order for the ICC to successfully gain enough evidence and gusto against ISIL committed crimes, but what would stand for justice in the victim’s eyes in Iraq? Truth commissions, like ncullen27 talked about, are victim centric. The community would be dealing with structural and individual truth. There would be a factual overall machinery of human rights violations that would have to be taken care of on top of the personal accounts of human rights violations that would have to be dealt with. This shows that the right to truth is different than the right to justice. The right to truth is more of a form of reparation for victims, rather than giving justice to the atrocity crimes committed.

    Referring ISIL to the ICC would also have impacts on countries in the world that hold power. The role of the U.S. in the international world would be heavily impacted due to the fact that ISIL has committed many crimes against U.S. citizens. Therefore, the U.S. would be implicated in the international decisions regarding ISIL. There are people in the U.S. that believe the U.S. should carry out more air strikes on ISIL in Iraq to prohibit any further development of these groups. Would increased airstrikes in Iraq to prohibit ISIL be a form of humanitarian aid by prohibiting a group performing atrocious crimes? Or would increased airstrikes in Iraq disrupt the larger civilian community in Iraq?

  4. pyanson March 30, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    To follow up on this, France announced last Friday that they would seek to bring the case before the ICC. Since neither Syria nor Iraq are party to the Rome Statute, any action taken again ISIL would have to come from the prosecutor or a state on the Security Council, such as France. France tried to do the same thing last May, but was backed by Russia, an ally of Syria. France would seek investigation by the prosecutor into war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the possible attempted genocide of the Yazidi minority in Iraq.
    Since this is an ongoing conflict, the referral to the ICC could be seen as attempting to deter further violence, or it could go on to spark more. The main problem I see with a truth commission, as proposed by other commentators, is the lack of infrastructure. Neither Syria nor Iraq seem likely to enact a truth commission anytime soon. Sure, the UN could organize one, but then investigations would have to occur in war zones. Any sort of truth commission would have to wait until this conflict is over, and there doesn’t seem to be much of an end in sight. Any international organization to attempt to achieve justice should begin as soon as possible.

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