Editor’s note: Nadine Maenza serves on the Advisory Board of ALL ARAB NEWS

The U.S. Department of State joined a coalition calling for Nuremberg-like tribunals to prosecute acts of genocide and atrocities committed by ISIS.

Ambassador-at-Large Morse H. Tan from the Office of Global Criminal Justice and Ambassador-at-Large Kelley Currie from Office for Global Women’s Issues presented remarks at an event hosted by Good of All online at the National Press Club on Dec. 9.

I was honored to present remarks as well represent the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where I serve as a commissioner. USCIRF has long called for accountability for these horrific crimes and justice for the victims.

Having just returned from a month-long visit to northeast Syria in my own capacity, I actually taped my remarks while in the country. I was able to visit most of the regions in the northeast and see for myself how they set up self-governance as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) that embeds religious freedom, ethnic diversity and gender equality in every level of government. 

USCIRF has taken a special interest in northeast Syria because of the remarkable religious freedom conditions, especially stunning considering it was the headquarters of the ISIS Caliphate just three years ago.

In June, USCIRF hosted a hearing, “Safeguarding Religious Freedom in Northeast Syria” that included recommendations for steps the U.S. government should take to ensure that AANES remains a refuge for religious freedom. The recommendations include giving political recognition to the AANES as a legitimate local government, lifting sanctions on the areas they govern, demand that they be included in any political solution for Syria per U.N. Res. 2254 and pressuring Turkey to present a timeline to withdraw from Syria. 

Bedran Ciya Kurd, a senior official with the AANES, welcomed the announcement for tribunals and spoke of their challenge housing more than 10,000 ISIS fighters from 70 different nationalities in prisons throughout northeast Syria. While there has been a push to repatriate foreign fighters, most countries have refused to do so. For that reason, Ciya Kurd believes that “the international community should assume its responsibility in finding an international legal mechanism to conduct the trials in order to preserve the literal gains that have been achieved in fighting terrorism.”

He believes it would be most appropriate to have the tribunals held in northeast Syria, perhaps Raqqa. 


Nadine Maenza in Raqqa, Syria (Photo: courtesy)


Ciya Kurd also added that another major challenge facing the AANES is from the invasion by Turkey and its affiliated radical Islamist groups who are conducting the same type of heinous crimes committed by ISIS.

“Turkey has used thousands of extremist jihadi groups, many of whom were former member of ISIS and al-Nusra Front, to conduct demographic engineering against the indigenous Kurds, Yazidis, and Christians in the Turkish occupied regions in north Syria,” he said.

He suggested that the perpetrators of these war crimes be held accountable as well. 

Matthew Daniels, founder of the Universal Rights Academy and Good of All, also used this event to launch a new Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) educational portal with videos featuring the stories of ISIS’ genocide and resources on the subject.  


Ruins of a church in Raqqa, Syria (Photo: courtesy


Others who spoke and showed their support included German Ambassador to the United States Emily Haber, Hungary State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians Tristan Azbej and Member of the European Parliament Beata Kempa. Jacqueline Isaac, vice president of the Roads of Success and Father Waldemar Cislo from the Polish Section of the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need also spoke.

It was especially fitting that this announcement occurred on the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide. As I shared in my remarks, “documenting this period in our history through Nuremberg-style tribunals will ensure the world never forgets, and hopefully never allows this type of evil ever again.”

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