LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – In the last two weeks, two international parliaments have denounced the crimes of ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide, condemning the deliberate targeting of these minority groups for destruction. Thus far, the UK Government has appeared unwilling to do the same. On Tuesday 9 February, Lord Alton approached the topic before the Government, asking how it intends to respond to the resolutions passed by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Read a transcript of the discussion in the House of Lords here.
The Government has refused to call the situation in the Middle East genocide and must be held to account
“The Government has refused to call the situation in the Middle East genocide and must be held to account”, said Robert Clarke, an English barrister and Director of European Advocacy at ADF International. “As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the United Kingdom carries significant international weight. And as a signatory to the UN Genocide Convention, the UK is required to use that weight to prevent genocide – but for that important work to start, it must first recognize what is going on.”
Clear words on genocide
On Thursday 4 February 2016, the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on systematic mass murder by ISIS condemning the ongoing atrocities in the Middle East as genocide. It stressed that the “so-called ‘ISIS/Da’esh’ commits genocide against Christians and Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities.” In unequivocally recognizing the systematic persecution as genocide, the European Parliament urged the international community to act to stop the killing.
The resolution was drafted in response to the targeting of religious minorities in the Middle East. The number of Christians has dropped from 1.25 million to 500,000 in Syria and from 1.4 million to under 275,000 in Iraq in just a few years. This resolution of the European Parliament followed an almost unanimous vote at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 27 January also condemning the atrocities committed by ISIS as genocide.
Stop the killing: UN Security Council and ICC referral
Christians, Yazidis and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East urgently need international institutions like the European Parliament, and also individual nation states to recognize the atrocities committed by ISIS as genocide. Genocide has been described as the “crime of crimes” and has a specific legal definition; as per the UN Genocide Convention of 1948, it refers to acts committed with the intent to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” This recognition is necessary to call for further steps, such as a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court, in order to stop the killing and to condemn and punish the perpetrators.
Related: Event at European Parliament on 17 February
The plight of Christians and members of other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq is complex. In order to provide Members of European Parliament with an authentic insight into the current situation, ADF International will co-host a presentation at the European Parliament in Brussels. On 17 February at 5.30 p.m. CET, experts and victims of the ongoing genocide will give testimony and share their experiences.
Requests for interviews with victims, delegates or legal experts on genocide and international law can be submitted before the event to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Overview and expert brief (Q&A)
An overview and an expert brief in the form of a Q&A on the topic of genocide and the situation in the Middle East can be found here.