In 2018, I attended a lecture at SOAS University of London delivered by Phil Clarke discussing whether judicial review, relating to the 1984 genocide in Rwanda, was necessary. The talk made me question whether judicial review should be granted in respect to the two genocides perpetrated against the people of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, first in Halabja (1988) and, most recently, against the Yezidis (Ezidis) (2014).
According to the UN’s definition, genocide is the “intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.” The indiscriminate and systematic killing of Ezidi minorities began in August 2014 by the Islamic State (IS) in Mount Sinjar (Shingal), northern Iraq, after they were deemed by the jihadist group to be “devil worshippers.”
Ezidism has often been at the receiving end of discriminatory treatment in Iraq, largely due to the ignorance toward the religion itself: the Ezidi worship of a fallen angel is from where the “devil worshipping” description came.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new.
Ethnic cleansing campaigns remain a serious and recurring matter which needs to be addressed by the international community. As humanitarian intervention declines in post-conflict areas, the importance of judicial review after genocide becomes crucial.
Minorities who were at the receiving end of discrimination must have their ordeal recognized and thereafter, be equally and adequately represented in the reconstruction and reconciliation process. The international community is obliged to offer physiological and psychological support as well as reparations, for those who were affected.
So what progress has been made since the Ezidi genocide occurred and was recognized by the international community?
International human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, took on the case of Nadia Murad, one of IS’ first Ezidi victims to have escaped and shared her experience as a captive on the world stage, shedding light on the brutal treatment at the hands of the militants. Clooney is looking to hold IS accountable by taking Murad’s case to the international court. As Clooney explained, “If the ICC cannot prosecute the world’s most evil terror group in the world, what is it there for?”
However, the subsequent judicial review following the Rwandan genocide by the UN’s International criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) can be used as an example of how complex and time-enduring such cases can be. As the tribunal held in Tanzania aimed to bring justice to the 800,000 Tutsi minorities killed in 1994, it was only in 2015, 21 years later, that the ICTR finally indicted 93 people and sentenced 61 perpetrators.
Dr. Valeria Cetorelli, a researcher at the London school of economics (LSE) was active in her research collection in 2015 which looked at the harm caused to the Ezidis. Dr. Cetorelli found that from the 13 camps she visited, and of the 1,300 interviewed households, 83 kidnappings and 22 executions were recorded. She later said “almost three years since the attack and the people are still displaced,” but that the struggle and plight of the Ezidi are still an ongoing issue and urged the international community to remain focused despite there being no immediate military threat.
I became aware of the effectiveness of judicial review after my visit to Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland in 2017 where I was on a fellowship from the Holocaust Trust Fund. With the open memorial sites and education to visitors, the genocide against the Jewish minorities is actively being remembered
In Iraq, there is much more that can be done by the government to ensure the genocides perpetrated against the Kurdish people are not forgotten. In particular, when looking at the victims of Halabja, the target of chemical bombings by the Saddam regime where thousands were killed 30 years ago, it is important to discuss the lack of reparations given to the families and, more so, the overall sluggish response by the Iraqi government.
Had more support and recognition been given to those in Halabja, then perhaps, as a government, Iraq would have been better equipped and efficient with the aftermath of the Ezidi tragedy, and maybe even have averted the advent of yet another genocidal group.
Unfortunately, most Ezidi victims are still displaced and are in fear of being persecuted as a result of religious intolerance, much like the Kurds of Halabja who suffered for years of the effects of the chemical attacks and insecurity. Despite the re-capturing of Shingal in 2015, the political climate for the Ezidi community is tense, with many remaining displaced in camps, their future uncertain.
Iraq and the Kurdistan Region must educate its youth on these atrocities, and have the world recognize the suffering of victims. It is enough of a statement that the stateless Kurdish people and the Ezidis have had two genocides perpetrated against them within three decades. Is it not time for their right to judicial review?
Halima Galali was born in London and comes from a Kurdish background. She studies at Pimlico Academy and is hoping to further her education at University by studying Politics and International Relations. She is interested in global politics from a Kurdish perspective as the world becomes more fractured with the growth of nationalist states and the decline of humanitarian interventions.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Nadia Riva