Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute and Nadia’s Initiative launch new collaboration to advance justice and accountability for Yazidi victims and survivors of genocide

August 19, 2022

Nobel Peace Laureate Nadia Murad’s organization and the Human Rights Institute join together to empower Yazidis with new strategies for rights protection.

Washington, D.C. — The Human Rights Institute (HRI) at Georgetown Law and Nadia’s Initiative (NI) announced a collaboration to develop and advance innovative strategies to hold the Islamic State (ISIS) accountable for its crimes against Yazidis. The two organizations will work together to advance the rights of Yazidis affected by genocide and sexual violence.

For the 2022-2023 academic year, students in Georgetown’s new Human Rights Advocacy in Action Practicum will support the mission of NI. Working under the supervision of experienced human rights advocates HRI Executive Director Elisa Massimino, Deputy Director Michelle Liu, and Dash-Muse Senior Teaching Fellow Catherine Cooper, law students will have the opportunity to conduct legal and factual research, craft policy solutions, and develop and execute advocacy strategies with real-world impact.

The two organizations will work together to strengthen legal mechanisms for bringing ISIS perpetrators and enablers to justice and identify pathways for national and international bodies to participate. The practicum will focus on: 1) strengthening U.S. government support for the Yazidi community, including through legal and policy reform to hold perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity accountable; 2) evaluating the potential for the International Criminal Court and other prosecutions, while ensuring that survivors’ perspectives are incorporated into justice mechanisms; and 3) promoting the rights of children born as a result of rape, as well as their mothers, to help provide a safe return to society.

Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad outlined what this new collaboration means to her. “As a survivor, I see that the fight for justice is existential – crucial to both Yazidi survival and communal healing,” she explained. “I am confident that the Human Rights Institute’s expertise and influence will translate into real change for our community.” Murad added: “As a student, I also know how impactful it can be to put lessons into action. I am looking forward to this collaboration being an opportunity for students and practitioners to build out new and effective approaches to justice and accountability for ISIS’ genocide.”

Human Rights Institute Executive Director Elisa Massimino underscored the significance of this new partnership for Georgetown students. “The genocide against the Yazidi people is a stark reminder that words like ‘Never Again’ are never enough,” she said. “We must find ways to hold perpetrators accountable, support survivors, and rebuild what is broken. In partnership with the inspiring activists at Nadia’s Initiative, Georgetown students will develop and deploy the skills and experience to help make the promise of ‘Never Again’ a reality.”


* * * Background * * *


August 3rd marked eight years since ISIS carried out its large-scale massacre and abduction of the Yazidis—a religious and ethnic minority indigenous to Mesopotamia. On August 15, 2014, an estimated 400 Yazidi men from the village of Kocho in the Sinjar, Iraq were executed en masse by ISIS fighters. Yazidi women and girls—many of whom witnessed firsthand the killings of their loved ones—were abducted by ISIS and sold as sex slaves. Over the course of ISIS’ genocidal campaign against the Yazidis, more than 5,000 men and older women were killed, 6,000 women and children were enslaved, and 400,000 Yazidis were displaced.

To date, no international body or Iraqi court has tried ISIS members for genocide or sexual violence against the Yazidis. An estimated 2,800 women and girls who were abducted are still missing. Survivors of sexual violence—many of whom have borne children as a result of rape—face legal and other barriers to rejoining their families and communities in Sinjar. The international community, including the United States, has a responsibility to advance justice and accountability for ISIS’ crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

Founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Nadia Murad, Nadia’s Initiative has been at the forefront of global efforts to hold ISIS accountable for its crimes. The organization is active in rebuilding the Yazidi community in Sinjar and advocating for women’s rights and an end to sexual violence as a weapon of war. All of Nadia’s Initiative’s programs are community-driven, survivor-centric, and designed to promote long-term peacebuilding.

The Human Rights Institute at Georgetown Law is a premier training academy for future human rights advocates. Its mission is to equip students with the skills and experience they need to be successful human rights lawyers. The Institute is led by veteran human rights advocate Elisa Massimino. Massimino is the former president and CEO of Human Rights First and previously served as the Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Chair in Human Rights at Georgetown Law.


Logos of Nadia's Initiative and the Human Rights Institute