Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has urged Iraq to not let the Islamic State (Isis) militant group "get away with genocide". She also called on Iraq to allow the United Nations to launch an investigation into crimes by the extremists against Yazidi women.
Clooney told a UN meeting on Thursday (9 March) that more than the brutality of the crimes committed by Isis, it was "shocking" to see the "passive" response by the world to the campaign to investigate the crimes. She urged the UN to bring the perpetrators to justice.
She urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to write to the UN Security Council to formally request it to vote to set up an inquiry into crimes by the militants in Iraq. Britain is thought to be drafting a council resolution to set up a UN probe.
"Justice is what the victims want... but justice will be forever out of reach if we allow the evidence to disappear," the barrister said.
Clooney represents Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who was captured by militants in Iraq in 2014, and other victims who were enslaved and raped by Isis. According to AP, Clooney also expressed frustration at the lack of progress since she came to the UN six months ago as she seeks accountability for victims of Isis crimes.
She said despite Iraq having public support for a UN investigation, the government has not taken any step towards that.
"We do want to see an investigation take place with the cooperation of the Iraqi authorities. But ultimately if that support is not forthcoming in terms of real action, then the UN has to think of other ways in which to achieve accountability," Clooney told Reuters.
She pointed out that the Security Council can set up an investigation without obtaining Iraq's consent or escalate the issue to the International Criminal Court. Alternatively, the UN General Assembly can form a special team to gather evidence and prepare cases like it did in Syria in December, she noted.
"All these options are on the table. They must be seriously considered, because victims like Nadia can't expect to wait forever," said Clooney.
She said it was extremely important to preserve the evidence for future prosecution.
According to a UN report from June 2016, Isis has been committing genocides against the ethnic minority Yazidi women in Syria and Iraq, apart from resorting to sexual slavery and other crimes.
Murad, who is now a human rights activist and a goodwill ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, told the UN meeting that victims like her have patiently waited for over a year for investigation of crimes against Yazidis to start "to be able to at least bury our dead".
Iraq's Ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told the UN that his country would be "seeking help and assistance" to bring top Isis leaders to justice, while his government would try resolve cases involving low and mid-level members of the group.
He, however, did not mention why Iraq has not sent in its request for a UN inquiry.
Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he was working with Iraq on preserving the evidence of Isis crimes and looked forward to finalising the Security Council resolution "very, very soon".