Foreign Policy Blogs

The Absence of Justice for Syrians and Iraqis

Yazidis fleeing Sinjar, Iraq, in 2014 after forces loyal to the Islamic State took the town. Kurdish and Yazidi fighters retook it last fall.CreditRodi Said/Reuters

The generation that inherited the world right after the fall of Nazi Germany were in a unique position to teach future generations about how we should address justice after thousands of families lost their relatives during the war. While many former members of Hitler’s government were put on trial at Nuremberg, prosecuted and given their due sentences, many other perpetrators of genocide escaped the precedent setting trial. A case that stood out was that of Klaus Barbie, who organised the murder of thousands of Jewish people and resistance fighters from France during the war. While there was a warrant to arrest him, he was safely living in Latin America, even after he was convicted in absentia and for Crimes Against Humanity in the French legal system.

It was not an easy task to find Barbie and bring him to trial, but the Klarsfelds who spent their life seeking justice for their fallen family members and neighbours dedicated their lives to justice. Unfortunately, people who fought for those lost to genocide have left us over time, but the governments that turn a blind eye to human rights atrocities are still in place.

The current debate should be framed in what had occurred in Iraq and Syria to many minority groups living there since 2014. Over 6000 dead had been discovered buried in mass graves not long ago, and every few weeks leads to the discovery of more mass graves as survivors try to earn a place as a refugee from those atrocities. Survivors of genocide still are living in refugee camps, with no direct aid coming to them. There are still many girls and women missing and presumed dead or captured, all enslaved and all likely to be killed in the most brutal of ways, but no one speaks about them. When discussing those targeted groups in the region, no one addressed justice towards them or their murdered family members. The ones that escape are even threatened in safe countries overseas, with more incidences being revealed over time. In one instance, it was even suggested that focusing on minority groups from the region is “disgusting” and discriminatory, despite the fact that they are targeted specifically because of their race and religion to be killed, something that the French court in the Barbie case would call Crimes Against Humanity.

The resting excuse to not apply justice for those lost in Syria and Iraq is because there are no witnesses, but it has become evident in a few cases that Yazidi refugees in places like Canada and Germany have seen their ISIS torturers living in their area after they were resettled. Authorities do wish to seek justice even when they have those witnesses they claim do not exist living and being threatened as refugees in Canada and Germany. In a normal legal situation, if you commit a crime in another country or region, you are subject to the local laws of that region. So in the case where a non-Syrian or non-Iraqi would commit a murder in those countries, the local laws would be applied. We cannot simply take the murder of one person in a Western country as one individual murdering another and apply full justice to a trial, while claiming that the murder of 6000 Yazidis and Kurds is a statistic that cannot have justice applied, just because they are in Syria or Iraq. We should not set a precedent where if you kill all the lawyers and judges and burn the court to the ground while destroying a city, that you are able to simply return to your country of origin and leave Syria and Iraq with the aftermath of a genocide created by a murderer and fellow foreign nationals. Allowing citizens from a Western country to go abroad and commit genocide should have the most severe of punishments, and in some cases they are barely questioned. There should be money and funds set up to re-established a judicial system in those affected parts of Syria and Iraq, and trials should commence for all accused. It is clear that they committed Crimes Against Humanity, any justice minister and government that tries to hide that fact or shame victims are ignorant to the concept of justice themselves.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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