Barrister Amal Clooney
Credit: French Mission to the United Nations
Amal Clooney’s work on Accountability for ISIS’ crimes against the Yazidis
Since the spring of 2016, Amal Clooney has acted as legal counsel for Yazda, as well as for UN Goodwill Ambassador and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad and other survivors of the Yazidi genocide. As victims’ counsel, Amal is seeking to secure accountability for international crimes perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidi community in Iraq and Syria, including genocide, mass executions, sexual enslavement and trafficking, recruitment of child soldiers and forced displacement, among other war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Advocacy Before the United Nations
On behalf of the Yazidi community, Yazda and Nadia Murad, Amal has urged the United Nations to establish a UN investigation into ISIS’ crimes in Iraq.
After a year long-advocacy campaign led by Amal, the Security Council on 21 September 2017 unanimously adopted Resolution 2379 (2017) to establish an investigative team to collect, preserve and store evidence of ISIS’ crimes in Iraq, including those committed against the Yazidis. Crucially, the Resolution recognises that ISIS’ crimes are “part of the ideology and strategic objectives of [ISIS]” and that the establishment of the Investigative Team by the Security Council is a first step to “holding [ISIS] members accountable, particularly those who bear the greatest responsibility…”
In May 2018, the UN Secretary-General appointed British barrister Karim Khan QC as the Head of the Investigative Team (UNITAD) and the team officially started work on 20 August 2018. The team conducted its first exhumation of a Yazidi mass grave in Kocho, Sinjar, in March 2019. Amal’s Office is in close touch with Mr Khan QC to provide legal advice and will continue to support the team where it can.
Amal and Nadia addressed the Security Council again in April 2019 to call for judicial follow-up and the establishment of an international or hybrid tribunal to try ISIS fighters.
Evidence Collection and Accountability Before International and Domestic Courts
In order to bring ISIS militants to justice for crimes committed against the Yazidis, Amal and her team have assisted Yazda to gather and analyze evidence of atrocities. Ongoing efforts include interviews with witnesses and survivors, as well as the collection and preservation of documentary evidence, including photographic and video materials published online. And Amal has liaised with UN bodies and NGOs to receive the material gathered by them, acting as a hub for the collection and analysis of evidence of crimes against the Yazidis and a contact point for international and domestic prosecutors.
Amal also works closely with national prosecutors and investigative judges who are identifying ISIS members for prosecution, including in Europe, the US, and Iraq. In Germany, Amal represents a survivor in a case against Jennifer W, an ISIS member allegedly responsible for the war crime of murder of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl. Amal represents the girl’s mother in this case, which is believed to be the first prosecution anywhere in the world for international crimes committed by ISIS militants against Yazidi victims. Amal also represents survivors in a case in Germany where an arrest warrant was issued in December 2016 against an ISIS commander allegedly responsible for genocide and other crimes against the Yazidi minority. In the US, Amal represents Yazidi survivors in a case against Umm Sayyaf, a captured ISIS member and widow of ISIS’ former Minister of Oil and Gas, before the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. And in France, Amal represents a group of Yazidi survivors who are victims of ISIS’ crimes in Iraq and Syria in a criminal case in France against the French multinational company Lafarge for complicity in crimes against humanity committed by ISIS.