November 15, 2016

Amal Clooney Makes Case for Putting ISIS on Trial


The courtroom is an important front in the war against ISIS, Amal Clooney told 3,000 audience members during her Bryan Series talk Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum.

International courts can help deliver justice for the thousands of Yazidi women, women like 23-year-old Nadia, who were kidnapped by ISIS and forced to be sex slaves, the British human rights attorney said.

Before her lecture, Amal took part in a Q&A session with students. Read a story about that session: “Bryan Series Inspires.”

Amal made the case for a legal response in three parts.

“First, trials are important to the victims,” she said. “A lack of accountability prevents healing for individual survivors and often impedes reconciliation between communities.”

Amal has interviewed Yazidi girls and women. These of ISIS crimes want and deserve the opportunity to face their abusers in court, she said.

Second, justice is an important deterrent to future terrorism, she said. Trials can expose the myths and lies that feed terrorism.

“The fallacy and brutality behind ISIS must be publicly and forensically exposed – and trials are a very good way of doing that,” she said. “If potential recruits could see ISIS fighters being marched into court to face criminal charges, wouldn’t their war seem less holy?”

Third, our pursuit of justice requires the rule of law, she said.

She cited the example of the Nuremburg trials, the tribunals held in Germany after World War II. Some leaders of Allied forces wanted to hold mass executions, but the United States advocated trials, she said.

Amal quoted U.S Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremburg: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

Fifty years after the Nuremburg trials, the United Nations created international courts to hear cases involving brutality in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. However, ISIS and others accused of international crimes have not yet been put on trial.

That’s Amal’s quest. Nadia, who escaped her ISIS “owner” and now lives as a refugee in Germany, fears that after ISIS is defeated, some of its members will go unpunished and simply resume their previous lives, Amal said.

“It’s my job to do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”