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Calling for Accountability on International Justice Day


by Martin Fowler

Murder, torture, and rape – acts that may qualify as Genocide and for which The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”) is well known. When US Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently used “genocide” to describe their actions, he instigated a slew of debates about the possibility of prosecuting ISIS fighters for these crimes.

As the world celebrates the World Day for International Justice, a day that marks the creation of the increasingly important International Criminal Court (“ICC”), world leaders should proceed to indict and prosecute ISIS fighters for genocide – “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

The heinous crimes perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidi religious minority are well documented. ISIS fighters capture and rape girls, sometimes as young as 8, for months; they receive women and girls as “spoils of war,” and “elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous,” – an ideology that leads to the systematic sexual enslavement of thousands of Yazidi girls and women.

Such criminal acts are not outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Although major media outlets rightly suggest that prosecuting Syrian and Iraqi ISIS fighters will prove difficult (since neither country is a member of the ICC), they fail to recognize that thousands of foreign ISIS fighters from ICC member countries are prosecutable by the ICC.

In the absence of prosecution by the ICC, impunity will continue to create an “enabling environment for the commission of mass atrocity crimes,”; the world community will be forced to witness future atrocities as ISIS fighters continue to rape and murder without consequence.

The ICC has an opportunity to build upon the advances it has made in the field of International Criminal Justice – from prosecuting and convicting war criminals to deterring further crimes – by opening preliminary investigations of foreign ISIS fighters. Such investigations and possible convictions would damage ISIS’ foreign recruitment capabilities and provide ISIS’ victims with the justice they deserve.