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Seeking Justice for ISIS Rights Abuses: The Next Phase

In Iraq - including in areas once controlled by ISIS - women, girls, LGBTIQ people, and those otherwise perceived as stepping outside of traditional gender roles have been targeted for violence on a staggering scale. People have been brutalized, tortured, and killed because of their gender and gender expression. These acts are committed openly and have been well-documented, yet international criminal tribunals have not accounted for the gender-based persecution behind these crimes.

That’s why MADRE and our local partners embarked to document these violations and to launch an international advocacy strategy for their investigation.

In November 2017, MADRE, the Human Rights and Gender Justice (HRGJ) Clinic of the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) filed an investigation request with the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was the first of its kind,  making the case that the ICC should prosecute ISIS fighters for crimes they have committed on the basis of gender, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

After two years, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) released our investigation request, enabling us to share our documentation with UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) and the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM).

The UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) is a UN agency created by the Security Council to support Iraqi domestic efforts to hold ISIS accountable for crimes committed in Iraq by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence. MADRE and other civil society actors successfully advocated for UNITAD’s team to include an expert dedicated to investigating gender-based crimes committed by ISIS. With an expert tasked specifically on gender-based persecution, UNITAD can build upon the crucial work of Iraqi human rights defenders in documenting, investigating, and bringing to light the full scope of ISIS’ crimes committed against women and other marginalized groups.

The International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) is a UN agency tasked with assisting in the investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011. The IIIM also investigates conflict-related sexual violence crimes and gender-based violence, and our documentation will strengthen their gender analysis of crimes.

Both entities have entered into agreements with MADRE to receive information about cases of sexual and gender-based violence committed by ISIS fighters.

Providing documentation of such crimes to mechanisms like UNITAD and the IIIM is an important step towards ensuring that survivors of gender-based persecution in Iraq have access to justice and can heal from their experiences. We help point a vital spotlight on the long-standing targeting of civilians based on gender, including sexual orientation, and gender identity in the context of war and conflict.

January 28, 2020