Campaign to recognise Islamic State ‘genocide’ .
Defend our Sisters and Brothers from Daesh Genocide.
The Guardian reports.
A cross-party group of peers is stepping up its campaign to have the persecution and killing of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria declared a genocide with an amendment to the immigration bill. A vote to decide is expected on Monday.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said last week that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and others, and there was a unanimous vote along similar lines in the European parliament last month.
The UK government has refused to make such a declaration, insisting it is a matter for international judicial bodies. Its position is “morally indefensible”, said Helena Kennedy, one of those backing the amendment in the House of Lords.
Dozens of peers have backed the amendment but the government is instructing its members to vote against it.
The amendment says that a person seeking asylum in the UK, who belongs to “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” that is subject to genocide as defined under international law, should be presumed to meet the conditions of asylum. Crucially, it adds that a supreme court judge should adjudicate on whether genocide has been committed “after consideration of the available facts”.
As well as Lady Kennedy, others peers supporting the amendment include Michael Forsyth, Emma Nicholson, Caroline Cox and David Alton.
In a letter sent to peers urging their support, Cox said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving foreign secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”
Letter (Catholic Herald):
A cross-party group of peers is pushing for a judge to determine whether ISIS are carrying out genocide in the Middle East
The British Government is facing increasing calls to recognise that ISIS’s attacks on Christians, Yazidis and others should be declared genocide.
A cross-party group of peers is moving an amendment which could trigger a legal process obliging the Government to fulfil its obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention.
If the amendment passes, a judge – possibly from the High Court or Supreme Court – will examine the evidence and decide whether ISIS’s actions count as genocide.
That would force the Government to take concrete steps to protect the victims of ISIS and seek to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Government has so far refused to make a declaration of genocide, saying that such decisions are a matter for the judicial system.
In a letter to peers asking them to support the amendment, Baroness Cox, one of the group, said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving Foreign Secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”
The peers moving the amendment to the Immigration Bill include Baroness Kennedy (Labour), Lord Forsyth (Conservative) and Baroness Nicholson (Lib Dem).
The Government is whipping against the amendment, which will face a Lords vote on Monday. If it passes, it will then come to the Commons.
It comes after the US House of Representatives voted unanimously by 393-0 to declare that ISIS is committing genocide. The State Department has pledged to announce by tomorrow whether it classes ISIS’s actions as genocide, though the decision may be delayed until next week.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the United States Foreign Affairs Committee, and the European Parliament have all said that ISIS is committing genocide.
A recent report from the Knights of Columbus, Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East, lists 1,131 Iraqi Christians killed between 2003 and 2014, and documents hundreds of attacks on Christians and churches.
One of those leading the Lords campaign, the Catholic crossbench peer Lord Alton, told the Catholic Herald that there is a “Catch-22 situation” in which the Government says declarations of genocide are a matter for the judicial system, but the judicial system is not obliged to examine the evidence. The amendment could oblige the Government to act.
Lord Alton said that although the UK is one of over 140 signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, “as things stand, it doesn’t seem to be worth the paper on which it’s written”.
If the judicial system does make a declaration of genocide, Lord Alton said, the definition “obliges us to both punish those who are responsible for genocide and to protect the people who are the victims”.
This would lead to a prioritising of asylum for victims of genocide: notably Christians and Yazidis, but also possibly others such as Mandaeans, Turkmen, and some Shia Muslims.
Lord Alton said: “To prioritise people who are the victims of genocide – the crime above all crimes, after all – would mean that you would then have a pathway where you would take people because they are the clear victims of what is underway. Rather than people who may be amongst the perpetrators of those events.”
He also hopes that Britain would table a resolution at the UN Security Council calling for the International Criminal Court to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice. “Simply saying that we deplore what they do is not enough,” Lord Alton said. “You must always seek to bring people to justice.”
David Cameron said last year that Christian persecution was a “crucial” issue, adding: “We must stand together and fight for a world where no one is persecuted because of what they believe.”
In a letter last month, senior lawyers including four QCs asked the Prime Minister “to reconsider its position and to clarify why it operates a policy of refusing to recognize acts of genocide”. A similar letter was sent to the Prime Minister in December by over 60 parliamentarians.
Kennedy has cited the evidence of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP in Iraq. “Her testimony is like a knife in the heart. Her voice shakes as she describes the slaughter of hundreds of men and boys, the kidnapping of women and girls from their families, who are then raped and raped again continuously over months, their vaginas and uteruses torn and shredded by [Isis] men who treat them like animals. Some of the girls are as young as eight and nine,” said Kennedy.
“A few who have escaped are suffering such severe trauma that doctors visiting the refugee camps are in despair. Vian describes the mass graves, the beheadings of children, the crucifixions. She cannot understand why western governments are doing nothing to help them when barely a day passes without news of further genocidal atrocities.”
According to Alton, a campaigner against the persecution of Christians, actions committed by Isis include “assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike”.