POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.
On April 30, 2015, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued its annual report on the condition of religious freedom around the world. In this report, the USCIRF recommends, among other things, that the U.S. Government call upon the UN Security Council to refer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) the widely publicized violence attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government advisory body created by Congress through the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). The USCIRF’s statutory mandate includes monitoring religious freedom conditions globally and making recommendations for U.S. policy. IRFA mandates that the USCIRF base such recommendations on international human rights instruments such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and the Helsinki Accords.
The USCIRF’s 2015 annual report, which covers the period from January 31, 2014 through January 31, 2015, addresses troubling humanitarian issues in 33 countries. The report gives special attention to abuses committed in Syria and Iraq by forces associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It states that in both of these countries “ISIL has unleashed waves of terror upon Yazidis and Christians, Shi’a and Sunnis, as well as others who have dared to oppose its extremist views.” The report charges ISIL with responsibility for summary executions, forced conversions, rape, sexual enslavement, abduction of children, and destruction of houses of worship.
Based on these findings, the USCIRF recommends that the U.S. Government “call for or support a referral by the UN Security Council to the [ICC] to investigate ISIL violations in Iraq and Syria against religious and ethnic minorities, following the models used [by the Security Council] in Sudan and Libya.”
The USCIRF’s report and recommendations regarding ISIL (aka ISIS) are in substantial accord with the published statements of the ICC Prosecutor. As written about previously, the ICC Prosecutor has expressed her grave concern about ISIL, while noting that in the absence of a Security Council referral, her office’s ability to investigate ISIL’s activities is limited by the ICC’s jurisdictional requirements.
- U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Annual Report (2015).