Notre Dame Law Students provide legal analysis to aid documentation efforts for Yezidis in Iraq

Author: Michelle McDaniel

Pilgrims And Festival At Lalish On The Day Of The Yezidi New Year In 2017 21

Student fellows Huan Nguyen (2L), Daisy An (3L), Andrew Scarafile (3L), Christopher Ostertag (2L), and Rose Higgins (LL.M.) presented to UNHCR staff about the impacts of religious discrimination on the Yezidis, particularly in complex documentation cases.

Following the Da’esh (ISIS) perpetrated genocide in 2014, Yezidi have been displaced and killed; today, various legal structures make it almost impossible for Yezidis to participate in normal life due in part to the overwhelming loss of critical national identification and documentation.

In partnership with Bellwether International, the Notre Dame Law Students spent several weeks investigating complex documentation cases that Yezidis currently face to aid ongoing efforts of providing missing documentation led by UNHCR.

They presented legal analysis on complex cases, including missing documentation in the Dohuk governorate, where a large population of internally displaced (IDP) Yezidis remain; in cases involving the practice of tabri’a (disavowal of family members with perceived or convicted of affiliation with Da’esh); advocating for the use of alternative methods for proving paternity/lineage besides DNA testing; and mapping Iraq’s judicial system.

The fellows worked directly with Yezidi staff from Bellwether International and engaged with a former Iraqi judge to provide critical legal analysis on these cases. The fellows then presented their findings to senior UNHCR staff about the situation. They provided recommendations on reforming laws that contribute to religious persecution for displaced populations like Yezidis.

"Supporting the Religious Liberty Initiative's collaboration with Bellwether International to realize the right to civil documentation of displaced Yezidis in Iraq was a wonderful opportunity to engage in meaningful and impactful research that was focused on addressing the needs of very vulnerable people and communities,” said Rose Higgins, an LL.M. student in International Human Rights Law at Notre Dame Law School.

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