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No Justice for Yazidi Women Yet: Why Not?
by Akila Radhakrishnan
Global Justice Center, agencies
Aug. 2018
It has been four years since ISIS launched its genocidal assault on the Yazidi community in the Middle East. ISIS fighters have faced terrorism charges in Iraq and abroad, yet not a single ISIS fighter has been prosecuted for, much less convicted of, genocide. For the Yazidis, justice remains out of reach.
In light of international consensus that ISIS is committing genocide, it might seem surprising that there have been no prosecutions. In Iraq, the reason is deceptively simple — genocide is not a crime. Iraqi law does not provide for the prosecution of any international crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. Nor is Iraq a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, where such crimes can be prosecuted at the international level.
Iraq, however, has a precedent for allowing the prosecution of international crimes in extreme circumstances. In 2003, Iraq temporarily outlawed international crimes through the statute of the Iraqi High Tribunal to prosecute Saddam Hussein-era crimes.
While the trials were criticized for many reasons, including their failure to follow due process and human-rights standards, they resulted in historic domestic convictions for international crimes, including, in one case, genocide.
The passage of new Iraqi legislation allowing the prosecution of international crimes is a priority on the United Nations’ agenda. Both the joint statement signed by the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict and the terms of reference for the Iraqi investigative team prioritize the adoption of international crimes legislation in Iraq.
In addition, the UN office of the special adviser for genocide has also launched an appeal for universal ratification of the Genocide Convention by Dec. 9, on the Convention’s 70th anniversary. Domestication of the crime of genocide, a requirement of the Genocide Convention, is the goal of this campaign. Although Iraq ratified the Convention in 1959, it has failed to criminalize or otherwise punish genocide under its national law, violating its legal obligations under the Genocide Convention.
When it comes to international crimes, in particular the systematic gender-based crimes that characterized ISIS’s genocide of the Yazidi, legislation is only the starting point. International crimes are often conceived as more difficult to prosecute than domestic crimes, and their prosecution requires specific expertise in gender and international law that is often missing in domestic criminal systems.
When prosecuting genocide, proving the “specific intent” to destroy the community is often perceived to be a huge barrier. The gendered components of the Yazidi genocide add another level of complexity to prosecution, as the gender-based crimes of genocide have historically been overlooked in most genocide trials.
Prosecutors in Iraq and abroad have demonstrated a preference for prosecuting the crimes committed by terrorist groups solely under antiterrorism statutes. To date, every prosecution of an ISIS fighter in Iraq has been done under its 2015 antiterrorism law. These prosecutions have been widely criticized for their haste, lack of due process and human-rights protections and severity of the sentencing, including trials against children as young as 9 years old.
These terrorism charges run the risk of being overturned or discredited in the future. Moreover, when ISIS fighters are executed after a 10-minute trial for terrorism charges, the courts lose the opportunity to prosecute the fighters for the full scope of the crimes they committed, including genocide.
Iraq is not the only jurisdiction where ISIS fighters are being prosecuted for terrorism. When ISIS lost territorial control in Iraq and Syria, thousands of the foreign fighters in their ranks returned to their home countries, including in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
In Europe, as in Iraq, ISIS fighters have been prosecuted only under antiterrorism laws, despite the legislation criminalizing international crimes in their penal codes. By all accounts, it is far easier to prosecute an ISIS fighter for joining or supporting a terrorist group than it is to mount a genocide prosecution.
While prosecuting genocide is complex, the successful convictions from the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia demonstrate it is not impossible.
The genocide of the Yazidis continues. Thousands of women and girls abducted by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery are still missing, and nearly 400,000 Yazidis are internally displaced. Four years after the genocide began in Iraq, the community is still waiting for justice.
* Global Justice Center: Gender-Based Crimes against Yazidi Women and Girls Include Genocide:

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Every year, millions of children, women and men fall into the hands of human traffickers
by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, agencies
Every year, millions of children, women and men fall into the hands of traffickers, lured by fake promises and deceit. Human trafficking has become a global multi-billion-dollar enterprise, affecting nearly every country in the world.
Today, there are millions of people whose liberty, dignity and essential human rights have been stolen. They are coerced into sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging and stealing, and even compelled to "sell" skin and organs.
On the 2018 World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is focusing on ''responding to the trafficking of children and young people''. This year''s campaign highlights the fact that almost a third of trafficking victims are children. The focus draws attention to the issues faced by trafficked children and to initiatives linked to safeguarding and ensuring justice for child victims.
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General’s Message:
Trafficking in persons is a vile crime that feeds on inequalities, instability and conflict. Human traffickers profit from peoples’ hopes and despair. They prey on the vulnerable and rob them of their fundamental rights.
Children and young people, migrants and refugees are especially susceptible. Women and girls are targeted again and again. We see brutal sexual exploitation, including involuntary prostitution, forced marriage and sexual slavery. We see the appalling trade in human organs.
Human trafficking takes many forms and knows no borders. Human traffickers too often operate with impunity, with their crimes receiving not nearly enough attention. This must change.
The rights of victims must come first — be they the victims of traffickers, smugglers, or of modern forms of slavery or exploitation.
On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us come together around the key issues of prevention, protection and prosecution to build a future where this crime comes to an end.
July 2018
Children account for nearly one-third of identified trafficking victims globally - UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking urge Governments to adopt solutions shown to protect uprooted children.
Approximately 28 per cent of identified victims of trafficking globally are children, UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking (ICAT) said today on the eve of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. Across regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, children account for an even higher proportion of identified trafficking victims, at 64 and 62 per cent respectively.
UNICEF and ICAT believe the number of children who fall victim to trafficking is higher than current data suggests. The reality is that children are infrequently identified as victims of trafficking. Few come forward for fear of their traffickers, lack of information about their options, mistrust of authorities, fear of stigma or the likelihood of being returned without any safeguards and limited material support.
Refugee, migrant and displaced children are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Whether they are escaping war and violence or pursuing better education and livelihood opportunities, too few children find pathways to move regularly and safely with their families. This increases the likelihood that children and their family members will turn to irregular and more dangerous routes, or that children will move on their own, leaving them more vulnerable to violence, abuse, and exploitation by traffickers.
“Trafficking is a very real threat to millions of children around the world, especially to those who have been driven from their homes and communities without adequate protection,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “These children urgently need governments to step up and put measures in place to keep them safe.”
In many contexts, there is a lack of sustainable solutions for child victims of trafficking – including long-term assistance, rehabilitation, and protection. Many child protection systems remain under-resourced, and there is an acute lack of guardianship and other alternative care arrangements. Children are often placed in inadequate shelters, where they risk further traumatization and re-victimization. Trafficked boys can face additional challenges, as gender stereotypes can prevent them from getting or seeking the help they need, while girls may also be at risk of further exploitation and abuse due to gender discrimination and gendered poverty.
The UN children’s agency and ICAT continue to call for the implementation of government policies and cross-border solutions to keep these children safe, including:
* Expanding safe and legal pathways for children to move with their families, including by accelerating refugee status determinations and addressing obstacles in law and practice that prevent children from reuniting with their families;
* Strengthening child and social protection systems to prevent, identify, refer, and address cases of trafficking, violence, abuse, and exploitation against children and respond to children with specific needs based on age and gender;
* Ensuring that sustainable solutions are guided by an individual assessment of the child’s case and best interests determination (BID), regardless of the child’s status, and that the child participates in this process to a degree appropriate to her / his age and maturity;
* Improving cross-border collaboration and knowledge exchange between and among border control, law enforcement and child protection authorities, and implement faster family tracing and reunification procedures and alternative care arrangements for children deprived of parental care.
* Avoiding measures which may push children to choose riskier routes and to move alone to avoid detection by law enforcement.
July 2018
Ahead of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on Monday, the UN human rights expert on the issue has emphasized that both victims and potential victims’ rights must be upheld – especially women and children – and appealed for all States to prevent and combat the global scourge.
Many of those falling prey to traffickers are migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers who have left their country of origin for various reasons; including conflict, natural disaster, persecution or extreme poverty.
“They have left behind their social protection network, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation,” said Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, in a statement marking the Day.
Ms. Giammarinaro observed that in the current “poisonous anti-migration political atmosphere,” migrants are often targeted as a threat, while in fact they are a net-gain for host countries where they live and work.
Against that backdrop, the UN expert stressed that anti-trafficking discourse is often misused “to justify restrictive migration policies and push-back activities.”
“Taking a stand against xenophobic and racist approaches, as well as violence, hatred and discrimination, is a moral duty which is in everyone’s power,” she underscored.
Calling it “a gross human rights violation,” Ms. Giammarinaro argued that States have an obligation to prevent trafficking.
Turning to the Global Migration Compact, the UN expert asserted that in addition to international protection schemes, States should establish individualized approaches to gauge migrants’ vulnerabilities, and provide them with tailored protections.
“In many countries, human rights activists and civil society organizations have been criminalized and ostracized for acting in solidarity with migrants and victims, and potential victims of trafficking,” she flagged.
Dismissing as “unacceptable” any attempt to delegitimize their humanitarian work, Ms. Giammarinaro said that civil society organizations globally play “a pivotal role” in saving lives.
Non-governmental organizations are also important in identifying trafficking victims, which according to the UN expert is “essential for ensuring access to protection and rehabilitation for victims, and should be prioritized, including during large mixed migration movements.”
“On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, my message is that, even in difficult times, inclusion, not exclusion, is the answer,” she said.

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