Documentary by journalist ‘embedded’ with IS/ISIS

About the author(s):

Rogier is a researcher at the Netherlands Defence Academy (NLDA) and works at the Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office. He holds LL.M-degrees from Utrecht University and the University of Nottingham. Before taking up his current positions, he was an associate legal officer in Chambers at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and a legal adviser at the International Humanitarian Law Division of the Netherlands Red Cross.

Rogier is an adjunct-lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences, where he teaches international humanitarian law, and he co-convenes the Hague Initiative for Law and Armed Conflict.

You will probably have heard about the VICE journalist/reporter, who spent three weeks with the Islamic State (of Iraq and Syria). He was allowed to film ISIS both at the frontline and during its activities in its newly established ‘State’.

The documentary gives an insight in the organisation and the way it operates. It clearly portrays the recruitment of children, the weapons used and obtained, such as scud rockets. It further shows the sometimes primitive way of fighting (the usual standing up and without first aiming firing shots with a Kalashnikov in a certain direction), but also ISIS’s ability to operate without problem (and quite skillfully) American tanks.

It is interesting to see that the members appearing before the camera seem to have a clear understanding of IHL, when it comes to child soldiers. Whilst in practice ISIS reportedly uses child soldiers (see, e.g., here), the one interviewed says “Those under 15 go to Sharia camp to learn about their creed and religion. Those over 16, they can attend the military camp” In response to the question whether they participate in military operations, he answers “Yes, those who are over 16 and were previously enrolled in the camps can participate in military operations”. Of course, such a statement means nothing if in practice it is not lived up to (compare, for example, the well-known VRS main staff order that the prisoners of Srebrenica were to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions which was followed by the killing of virtually all these prisoners, see e.g. here at para. 929), but it indicates that the members of ISIS are well aware of, at least part of, the rules of IHL. The blatant violations of those rules, at least based on the news reports about for example the plight of the Yazidis, is therefore all the more disturbing.

All the parts have now been made available online. The full documentary is available here. The separate parts via these links:

Part 1 (showing footage of a battle for Raqqa (Syria) between ISIS and the Syrian government army)

Part 2 (about recruitment and indoctrination of young members (well below 15 years old), It also clearly shows the weaponry and vehicles that ISIS has captured)

Part 3 (about the “Hisbah” (the Sharia police, and the treatment of detainees)

Part 4 (about ISIS’s sharia courts)

Part 5 (showing, amongst other things, the bulldozing of the physical border between Syria and Iraq by ISIS)


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