In Passionate Speech, Amal Clooney Urges The U.N. To Pursue Justice For ISIS' Victims

"The U.N. should also investigate ISIS’ crimes and make sure that those responsible are brought to justice."

Amal Clooney is making a plea to the United Nations: do something.

The international human rights lawyer, who represents Nobel Peace Prize nominee Nadia Murad, did not mince words while urging the U.N. to act against ISIS on Thursday. A series of previous inquiries by U.N. found staggering evidence that the militant group is guilty of war crimes within Iraq and Syria and genocide against the Yazidi people.

In an impassioned speech, she reminded the chamber that the U.N. was created after the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis, with the common goal of "never again" allowing something like this to happen.

"And yet here we are, 70 years later, discussing the U.N.'s inaction in the face of a genocide that we all know about, and that is ongoing," she said. "So is it that the political interests of powerful states stand in the way of accountability?"

Clooney is a globally renowned human rights lawyer who studied at St. Hugh's College, Oxford University, and New York University School of Law. In recent years, her career has turned to defending Yazidi women who are oftentimes the victims of sexual crimes and torture at the hands of ISIS. 

Yesterday was not her first time asking U.N. member states to take immediate action.

"Six months ago, I came here to discuss the need for accountability for crimes committed by ISIS," Clooney said. "I spoke to you as the lawyer for a group of victims of ISIS' crimes, including Nadia Murad, who as a 21-year old girl was enslaved and raped by ISIS militants in Iraq... And that the response should not be limited to the battlefield: the U.N. should also investigate ISIS' crimes and make sure that those responsible are brought to justice."


Since that speech, Clooney has supported a United Kingdom intiative that would begin an investigation into ISIS' crimes. The goal, ultimately, was to gather witnesses and use Iraqi forces on the ground to identify ISIS members who could be tried in international criminal courts. Despite support from Iraqi, EU and U.N. officials, and even the Russian and U.S. ambassadors, there has been little movement forward.

The UK drafted a one-page resolution and gave it to the Iraqi government. The next step was to send it to the U.N. Security Council to trigger an investigation.

"But months have passed, deadlines set by the U.K. have come and gone, and the Iraqi government has declined to send the letter," Clooney said. "Witnesses are fleeing. And there is still not one ISIS militant who has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world. So I am speaking to you, the Iraqi government, and to you, U.N. member states, when I ask: Why? Why has nothing been done?"

According to Clooney, ISIS has now carried out attacks in more than 31 countries and killed over 2,000 people outside of Iraq and Syria. Inside Iraq and Syria, the ISIS-linked death toll is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

While Iraqi ground forces are doing their best to take back Mosul, which would be a huge victory against ISIS, the United States and Russia have boasted of successful drone strikes and bombings throughout Syria, Iraq and Yemen. But Clooney was sure to emphasize that this was not enough — what the people on the ground wanted was real justice.

"When Jihadi John was reportedly killed by a drone strike in Syria, the hostages' families said they would have preferred it if he had been arrested instead," she said. "Steven's family said they wanted to 'sit in a courtroom, watch him sentenced and see him sent to… prison.' Yazidi women like Nadia say the same: they want the chance to face their abusers in court; they want legal judgments to be published, to prevent their genocide later being denied."

Of course, it's not too late. In a direct appeal to Iraq's Prime Minister, Clooney once again urged him to send the letter — and said if he didn't, the U.N. should take action on its own.

"So today, I wish to speak directly to Prime Minister Abadi: on behalf of all of ISIS' victims, I call on you to send the letter to the Security Council requesting an investigation into ISIS crimes," Clooney said. "Getting the U.N. involved was initially Iraq's idea, and finally taking action to make it a reality would silence those who doubt your commitment to bring Daesh to justice."

Check out highlights of her speech below:

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