Prosecuting Gender-Based Persecution: the Islamic State at the ICC

Citation:

Chertoff, Emily. 2017. “Prosecuting Gender-Based Persecution: the Islamic State at the ICC." Yale Law Journal 126 (4): 1050-117.

Author: Emily Chertoff

Abstract:

Reports suggest that Islamic State, the terrorist "caliphate," has enslaved and brutalized thousands of women from the Yazidi ethnic minority of Syria and Northern Iraq. International criminal law has a name for what Islamic State has done to these women: gender-based persecution. This crime, which appears in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has only been charged once, and unsuccessfully, in the Court's two decades of existence. The case of the Yazidi women presents a promising opportunity to charge it again--and, potentially, to shift the lately unpromising trajectory of the Court, which has been weakened in recent months by a wave of defections by former member states. This Note uses heretofore unexamined jurisprudence of the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber to elaborate--element by element--how the Prosecutor of the Court could charge gender-based persecution against members of Islamic State. I argue that the prosecution of Islamic State would not just vindicate the rights of Yazidi survivors of Islamic State violence. It would help to consolidate an international norm against gender-based persecution in armed conflict--a norm that, until now, international law has only incompletely realized. This Note argues that only by prosecuting the crime of gender-based persecution can international criminal law cognize violence, like the attacks on Yazidi women, that is motivated not just by race, ethnicity, or gender, but by the victims' intersecting gender and ethnic or racial identities. I conclude by reflecting on the role that a series of prosecutions against perpetrators of gender-based persecution might have in restoring the legitimacy of the ailing ICC.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Ethnicity, Women, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Race, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Sexual Slavery, Terrorism, Violence Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Iraq, Syria

Year: 2017

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