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Suing the Islamic State

Clooney said that military assaults on I.S.-occupied strongholds in Iraq and Syria “are not enough to take them out"
By The News · 22 of September 2016 08:13:22
George Clooney and Amal Clooney attend a CEO roundtable at the United Nations in New York, Actor George Clooney and his wife Amal attend a CEO roundtable at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 20, 2016. REUTERS/, photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Last week, international human rights advocate and British lawyer Amal Clooney took on what may turn out to be the most famous (and perhaps most futile) legal suit of her career.

Clooney is demanding that the United Nations and the international community both investigate and prosecute the so-called Islamic State (I.S.) for its inhuman acts of mass murder and its heinous attempts to systematically eradicate the Yazidi population of Iraq.

Proclaiming Nadia Murad (a 23-year-old Yazidi woman, captured and repeatedly raped by I.S. in 2014, who witnessed her eight brothers and mother murdered before escaping and who was recently named a goodwill ambassador by the UN) as her principle client, Clooney (who gained global celebrity after marrying film star George Clooney two years ago), has accused the jihadist group of genocide.

Her case is firmly based in facts.

The UN estimates that at least 5,000 Yazidi men (out of a total population of about 600,000) have been killed by I.S. militants and thousands more of the Kurdish ethno-religious group (mostly women and children) been taken into captivity to be assimilated into sharia Sunni culture.

But bringing the Islamic State to legal task is not going to be easy.

To begin with, I.S. does not recognize either the United Nations or the World Court of Justice, and even if it is sued in absentia, the terror group would not only be unshamed by any prosecution, but would revel in the glory of a guilty verdict, mockingly considering it just one more feather in its odious cap of atrocities.

But Clooney’s litigation represents one more stance against I.S., a noble, albeit vain, beau geste of resilience against evil incarnate.

“This is my job,” she told an interviewer on the U.S. television morning show “Today,” after being asked why she would risk her life to take on a seemingly meaningless suit.

Clooney added that military assaults on I.S.-occupied strongholds in Iraq and Syria “are not enough to take them out.”

“You can’t kill an idea that way,” she said.

“One of the ways to take action against [them] is to expose their brutality and their corruption, and part of the way to do that is through trial.”

When Clooney appeared before the UN General Assembly to present her case, she said: “I wish I could say that I was proud to be here, but I’m not. I’m ashamed as a human being that we ignore [the Yazidis’] cries for help.”

She has a point.

We should all be ashamed.

And we should all do what we can — as lawyers, lawmakers, politicians, journalists and human beings — to try to bring an end to I.S.’s vile barbarity.

Individually, our acts may, like Clooney’s lawsuit, prove futile, but collectively, maybe, we can make a difference.

Thérèse Margolis can be reached at