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Security Brief: CRIME Week of May 10, 2021

Week of May 10, 2021 | Issue 14

Moon Jung Kim, Ciro Mazzola, Martyna Dobrowolska, Crime


Iraqi Yazidi refugees in Newroz camp receive help from International Rescue Committee[1]


Date: Monday, May 10, 2021

Location: Iraq

Parties involved: ISIS, Karim Khan, United Nations, Iraq’s Yazidi Community, Nadia Murad

The event: Karim Khan, Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD), communicated there is enough evidence to consider the crimes carried out against the Yazidi community in Iraq by the terrorist group as genocide.[2] Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who was kidnapped and raped by ISIS members and who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end sexual violence as a weapon of war, has stated that, apart from evidence, there is also the need for a political will to prosecute the crimes.[3]

The implications:

  • This is a big development in the fight against ISIS’ extremism and crimes. In ISIS’ eyes, the Yazidi community represents a group of heretics worshipping the devil due to the community’s beliefs fusing various elements of ancient Middle Eastern religions. ISIS attacked numerous villages forcing their conversion through death threats and enslaving women so they could become “wives” for the militants. In the process, the terrorist group slaughtered thousands and caused the displacement of over half a million Yazidis.[4] Considering that around 1,500 possible perpetrators have been identified[5], the charges cannot be ignored and need to be brought forward. However, the problem resides in the fact that efforts must be made to ensure that Iraq possesses the legislative framework required to prosecute said perpetrators. This confirms Nadia Murad’s words as there is a necessity for the Iraqi government to operate accordingly as well as for international organizations to support these efforts. UNITAD is currently working to aid Iraq in developing legislation that will enable the country to prosecute ISIS’ crimes,[6] but additional help might be necessary.

  • Despite the good news announced by the United Nations, the reality is that the crimes carried out by ISIS towards the Yazidi community in Iraq have not stopped. According to Karim Khan, thousands of women and children continue being separated from their families or go missing whereas some are still held by ISIS.[7] In the meantime, the United States (US) and Iraq have agreed on the withdrawal of all remaining US and coalition troops deployed in the Middle Eastern country. However, a timeline has not been released and the troops will continue providing training to Iraqi soldiers.[8] Whilst it is understandable how the deployments of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan may be considered as contributing to so-called “endless wars”, the timing of US troops’ withdrawal from Iraq is questionable. ISIS’ power has undeniably decreased within the last years, however, the fact that attacks such as the ones targeting the Yazidis continue to occur could be interpreted as a sign that the country might not be ready to fend for itself. The last time this happened under the Obama Administration, ISIS came out of the shadows and forced US troops to be re-deployed in the region. It is in everyone’s interest that Iraq becomes at least a seemingly stable country before the US and coalition troops withdraw, as no one would want to see a threat such as ISIS resurge in activity.


Date: Saturday, May 8, 2021

Location: Tigray, Ethiopia

Parties involved: People of Tigray, Ethiopian Government Forces, The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

The event: The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church - Abuna Mathias - is accusing the Ethiopian government troops of genocide and rape in Tigray, asking for immediate international intervention to stop these atrocities.[9]

The implications:

  • Abuna Mathias’s accusations are very strong and require an immediate international investigation - especially because it is not yet known what is really happening in Ethiopia because the borders remain closed to international actors. According to the United Nations, genocide refers to any “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”[10] This definition reflects the situation in Tigray, where civilians are being killed on a daily basis. Genocide can only be achieved with the active participation of the state and - as Abuna Mathias denounces - Ethiopian government troops seem to be fully involved in these atrocities. Tigray is facing an increase in hate crimes, which must be immediately condemned. Without an imminent international intervention, the Tigran people could be completely destroyed. Being Tigrayans at risk of genocide and ethnic cleansing, the international community should rigorously follow the Responsibility to Protect commitment that aims to end these forms of violence. Everyone has the right to a dignified life, without fear and discrimination. Recognizing genocide is a moral duty.

  • Throughout history, rebel groups and soldiers have used rape as a weapon of war to terrorize, punish and destroy entire communities.[11] Raping women and children might be seen as a tactic to obtain certain objectives, like for example the control over a territory. Unfortunately, and very often, even soldiers - those who are supposed to protect the population - commit these atrocities as well. The organized use of force and intimidation by rebel groups and the military is unacceptable and requires international intervention. According to the United Nations, “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.”[12] It is important to end the culture of impunity, that almost normalizes sexual violence in conflict zones and allows perpetrators to live unpunished.[13] It is necessary to provide shelters and health and psychological support to victims of rape, but also provide a hotline where victims may report any kind of abuse without fear.


Date: Friday, May 14, 2021

Location: Indianapolis, India, USA

Parties involved: Worldwide Congolese community, Banyamulenge people, United Nations

The event: The Congolese community in Indianapolis and other cities across the world gathered Friday for what is called SOS Day in an attempt to bring global attention to the ethnic cleansing of the Banyamulenge people in eastern Congo. In the last five years, according to the Mahoro Peace Association, thousands have died and been displaced, but this is a story that members of the Congolese community have felt is largely overlooked by the media and the international community, namely the United Nations (UN).[14]

The implications:

  • A surge in attacks by armed groups and intercommunal fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has killed more than 300 people since the start of the year, which has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the mineral-rich territory. A majority of the recent threats and attacks have been attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group formed in neighboring Uganda more than 20 years ago.[15] According to UNICEF, more than 1.6 million people are estimated to be displaced in the city of Ituri, out of a total population of 5.7 million people.[16] However, due to the current administration’s inability to implement radical security measures dedicated towards eliminating these armed groups, the violence has been able to persist for longer than expected. Weak military campaigns by the state and a general lack of attention from neighboring countries has contributed to this issue, which may encourage these armed groups to expand and spill over to Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda.

  • As seen in this event, Congolese communities across the world have recently engaged in protests to raise international awareness of the continued violence in the DRC. Many have felt that the UN has failed to provide enough emergency assistance and stop rebel attacks, despite the presence of 16,000 UN peacekeepers in the region.[17] Groups especially at risk in the DRC are women and children,[18] and several Congolese communities residing in Western states hope that by bringing attention to the sexual crimes committed against these groups, more humanitarian aid will be provided to them in the near future. It is therefore necessary for news networks and law enforcement to further buttress these actions by informing the general public of the violence on a regular basis. Ensuring that incidents occurring in the DRC are constantly updated and circled around will contribute to more public momentum to motivate the UN and other international organizations to focus on effective strategies in providing DRC citizens with essential services and aid.

[1]Yazidi refugees” by UK Department for International Development licensed under Public Domain

[2] ISIL crimes against Yazidis constitute genocide, UN investigation team finds, United Nations, May 2021, https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/05/1091662

[3] UN investigator says he has evidence of genocide against Iraq's Yazidis, Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/un-investigator-says-evidence-genocide-against-yazidis-iraq-2021-05-10/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] ISIL crimes against Yazidis constitute genocide, UN investigation team finds, United Nations, May 2021, https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/05/1091662

[7] ISIL committed genocide against Yazidis: UN investigation, Al Jazeera, May 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/11/isil-committed-genocide-against-yazidis-un-investigation

[8] No timeline as US to move remaining combat troops out of Iraq, Al Jazeera, April 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/7/us-agrees-to-move-remaining-combat-troops-from-iraq

[9] Ethiopian patriarch pleads for international help to stop rape and genocide by government troops, The Guardian, May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/08/ethiopian-patriarch-pleads-for-international-help-to-stop-and-genocide-by-government-troops

[10] Genocide, United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, n.d., https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.shtml

[11] Sexual violence as a weapon of war, Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation, n.d., https://www.mukwegefoundation.org/the-problem/rape-as-a-weapon-of-war/

[12] Rape: Weapon of war, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, n.d., https://www.ohchr.org/en/newsevents/pages/rapeweaponwar.aspx

[13] Ibid.

[14] Protesters in Indianapolis bring attention to genocide concerns in Congo, Wishtv.com, May 2021, https://www.wishtv.com/news/multicultural-news/protesters-in-indianapolis-bring-attention-to-genocide-concerns-in-congo/

[15] DRC declares ‘state of siege’ in violence-hit eastern provinces, Al Jazeera, May 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/1/dr-congo-declares-state-of-siege-in-violence-hit-provinces

[16] Recent surge in violence in DRC’s Ituri province worsening already desperate situation for children, UNICEF, April 2021, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/recent-surge-violence-drcs-ituri-province-worsening-already-desperate-situation

[17] Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Council of Foreign Relations, May 2021, https://microsites-live-backend.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/violence-democratic-republic-congo

[18] Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations, March 2021, https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/countries/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/

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