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Lawyer Amal Clooney Fights to Get International Criminal Court to Recognize ISIS's Genocide Against Yazidis

( [email protected] ) Sep 20, 2016 09:26 PM EDT
More than 5,000 have been killed and at least 3,200 others are still being held, according to a recent U.N. inquiry. Families have been ripped apart, and survivors and escapees have been forced to take shelter in crowded, rundown camps, one of them near Mount Olympus. One human rights lawyer has decided to do something about it. "I think the international community should be ashamed that they haven't done more for the Yazidis," said Amal Clooney.
IRC President and CEO David Miliband (L) George Clooney (2nd L), and Amal Clooney (R) meet with Syrian refugees Mona and her daughter, 11-year-old Joudi, in Berlin, Germany February 12, 2016 in this handout provided by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) February 13,... REUTERS/Jeffry Ruigendijk/International Rescue Committee/Handout via Reuters

Over the last two years, ISIS terrorists who overran parts of Syria and Iraq have enslaved, raped and murdered Yazidis because of their religion.

More than 5,000 have been killed and at least 3,200 others are still being held, according to a recent U.N. inquiry. Families have been ripped apart, and survivors and escapees have been forced to take shelter in crowded, rundown camps, one of them near Mount Olympus.

One human rights lawyer has decided to do something about it. "I think the international community should be ashamed that they haven't done more for the Yazidis," said Amal Clooney.

Clooney, who is married to movie star George Clooney - who is himself an activist, represents a ray of hope for those facing brutality at the hands of ISIS.

Clooney was persuaded to take the case by survivor Nadia Murad, 23, who was captured by ISIS in 2014 but escaped after a hellish three months in which she was raped by a dozen men and prayed for death.

Together, they are trying to persuade the international community to start gathering evidence - from interviewing survivors to excavating mass graves - so the perpetrators can be tracked down and held accountable in a courtroom.

Murad and Clooney are hopeful the world will recognize the brutality and that the fanatics who uprooted and persecuted the Yazidis will be brought to justice.

The ultimate goal is to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute the crimes committed by ISIS commanders against the Yazidis, for what the United Nations and U.S. State Department agree is genocide.

Clooney cited the Nuremburg Trials and added: "I believe in international justice. I believe it's important that you don't just turn the page without people being held to account."

"Victims have all said they actually want their day in court," Clooney told NBC News in an exclusive interview over the weekend. "It's not going to be easy, but we're working on multiple fronts."

Last week, the Clooney and Murad paid visits to officials at the United Nations in New York - including the U.S., Russian and Iraqi ambassadors - in hope of persuading the world body to refer the Yazidi slaughter to the International Criminal Court.

The ICC was set up in 2002 to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to keep those crimes from recurring. However, Syria and Iraq are not members, so the court says it will not investigate unless Iraq invites it in or the U.N. Security Council sanctions an investigation. The Security Council has only acted in such a situation twice before.

China and Russia are both permanent members of the Security Council, and have previously voted against asking the ICC to open an investigation into war crimes in Syria. But Clooney says the Russians have stated in meetings that they are "open" to the possibility of an investigation. Clooney plans to meet with Chinese officials this week.

While they may have an uphill battle ahead of them, Clooney said, neither she nor Murad will give up.

"She can't think about her own life or safety until she knows that there's some process where ISIS is going to be held to account for their crimes. And, unfortunately, we're still far away from that happening," she said.

Asked about putting herself in danger, Clooney said, "I don't think anyone can feel that they're being courageous compared to what Nadia's doing and what all the women who've suffered what Nadia's suffered are doing."

Before agreeing to take Murad's case, Clooney says, she discussed it with her husband, who was supportive of her efforts to end this clear case of genocide that has gone completely unaddressed and ignored.

Murad, whose mother and six brothers were killed by ISIS, continues to get threats aimed at silencing her. One was sent through a young niece who was still being held as a slave and was subsequently killed, she said. Another came from a nephew who she said was brainwashed by ISIS after his capture at age 11 and enlisted as a "cub of the caliphate"

"Yes, I put my own life at risk, but I didn't have a life without giving hope to other victims," Murad said.

Since her escape, Murad has shared her story over and over, recounting how ISIS slaughtered her family and turned her into a sex slave, how her "owner" turned her over to six guards who raped her into unconsciousness.

She has become the face of the Yazidi plight through her organization - addressing the United Nations last year and testifying before Congress in Washington. She was nominated this year for a Nobel Peace Prize. Last week, after she was named a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, she said she was born to be "a simple Yazidi farm girl," not to make speeches, but would continue her work until her people received justice.

"Genocide doesn't happen by accident," Clooney stated emphatically.

Murad said that for her people, hope is the thought that those who tried to wipe the Yazidis off the face of the Earth will be charged with crimes.

"When we see them in court and see them held accountable for their crimes, that will make all survivors happy, not only myself," she said.

Tags : ISIS, genocide, Yazidis, Persecution, CLOONEY, MURAD