Speaking by phone from a beach in Tulum, Mexico, Luis Moreno-Ocampo does not seem the least bit put out by my disrupting his brief vacation from a lengthy speaking tour for an interview. “For me, this is not just work,” he explains. An Argentine lawyer who served nine years as the first prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Moreno-Ocampo stepped down in 2012 and today teaches international law and practices independently. “It is the most important thing in the world.”
It’s an unexpected description of an effort that from many elicits eye rolls or simple dismissal: convincing the ICC — a legal body whose jurisdiction more than 70 countries, including the United States, have yet to recognize — to pursue a charge of genocide against the Islamic State for their campaign to exterminate the Yazidis.
The Islamic State’s brutal treatment of the Yazidis, a small religious and ethnic minority which lives in the mountains of northern Iraq, provoked America’s first overt intervention into the Iraq/Syria conflict in the summer of 2014. Nevertheless, their cause is somewhat tangential to the larger struggle embroiling the region, and their persecutors are hardly ones to submit to international law. (As my esteemed FP editor, who shall remain unnamed, put it when I first broached this piece: “I highly doubt the Islamic State fears the wrath of the ICC.”)