Joint Letter To Prime Minister: Call The Daesh Atrocities For What They Are

On 19 January 2022, experts and civil society representatives sent a letter to Prime Minister calling upon him to recognise the Daesh atrocities against the Yazidis, Christians and other religious or belief minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide.

The Daesh atrocities have been recognised as genocide by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the US State Department, the Canadian and Dutch governments, and several parliaments, including the UK House of Commons.

The UK Government refused to recognise the atrocities as such hiding behind its ‘long-standing policy’ of leaving the question of genocide determination to the courts.

18 January 2023

Dear Prime Minister, 

We, the undersigned, call upon you to formally recognise the Daesh atrocities against the Yazidis, Christians and other religious or belief minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide. 

We understand that it is a long-standing policy of the UK Government not to make determinations of genocide but to leave it for competent courts. As flawed as this policy is, and noting it is contrary to duties owed by the UK under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention), the UK Government has been standing by it for decades. 

On 30 November 2021, a criminal court in Frankfurt, Germany, convicted an Iraqi national for his involvement in genocide, crimes against humanity and other crimes. This was followed by further convictions. On 27 July 2022, the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg convicted German Daesh member Jalda A. of aiding and abetting genocide as well as of crimes against humanity and war crimes for the enslavement and abuse of a young Yazidi woman. 

As such, the courts put the evidence of the Daesh atrocities to detailed legal scrutiny, applying relevant international law, and recognised the atrocities as genocide. 

A criminal court, in the view of the UK Government, is a competent court to make such a determination. Also, criminal courts in Germany are some of the world’s most respected criminal courts to deal with issues of international crimes, particularly under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Following the findings of genocide by German courts, we call upon the UK Government to formally recognise the atrocities committed against the Yazidis, Christians and other religious or belief minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide. 

We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency. 

Yours sincerely, 

Organisations 

Accountability Unit

A Demand for Action 

Coalition for Genocide Response 

Free Yezidi Foundation

International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute 

Yezidi Emergency Support. (Y.E.S). UK

Individuals 

Aarif Abraham, barrister, Garden Court North Chambers

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Member of the House of Lords

Andy Bailey, Director, APPG on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

Peter Burns, Executive Director, IRF Summit 

Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK

Rt Hon Baroness D’Souza CMG, Member of the House of Lords

Ryan D’Souza, Curator, ‘Nobody’s Listening: Forgotten Voices of Sinjar’ Virtual Realty Exhibition

Dr Tatyana Eatwell, barrister, Doughty Street Chambers 

Emily Foale, Project Manager, IBAHRI 

Lord Hannay, Member of the House of Lords

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, Rene Cassin

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Member of the House of Lords

Prof Azeem Ibrahim OBE, Director, New Lines Institute

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, Member of the House of Lords, Director of the IBAHRI

Nadine Maenza, President, IRF Secretariat

The Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, Member of the House of Lords

Anne Norona, Founder of Yezidi Emergency Support. (Y.E.S). UK

Dr Ewelina Ochab, Programme lawyer, IBAHRI, Coalition for Genocide Response, co-founder 

Brendan O’Hara MP, Chair of the APPG on the Yazidis 

Kirsten Oswald MP, Officer of the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief

Prof. John Packer, Neuberger-Jesin Professor of International Conflict Resolution and Director, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa 

Emily Prey, Director, New Lines Institute

Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chairman, Conservative Party Human Rights Commission 

Jim Shannon MP, Chair of the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief

Mervyn Thomas CMG, Founding President, Christian Solidarity Worldwide 

Yasmin Waljee OBE, Partner, International Pro Bono, Hogan Lovells International LLP

Dr Aldo Zammit Borda, Reader in International Law, City, University of London

January Session: The Holocaust and the Promise of Never Again

In the year leading to the 75th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and the Coalition for Genocide Response, will host a series of Parliamentary events engaging with several issues pertaining to the implementation of the duties under the Genocide Convention and look at recent and contemporary cases of genocidal atrocities. 

The January Session on ‘The Holocaust and the Promise of Never Again‘ will take place at 5:30 – 6:30 PM on 18 January 2023 in the Palace of Westminster. 

Speakers include:

Lord Dubs, Peer at the UK House of Lords 

Dorit Oliver Wolff, Holocaust survivor, advocate, singer 

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust 

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, Rene Cassin 

RSVP required. 

Refreshments will be served after the session. 

New Parliamentary Series: Genocide Convention at 75: Lessons Learned or Not

As we approach 75th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), it is crucial to pause and consider the lessons learned (or not learned) and how to improve the legacy of the treaty that was meant to deliver on the promise of ‘Never Again.’

In the year leading to the 75th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and the Coalition for Genocide Response, will host a series of Parliamentary events engaging with several issues pertaining to the implementation of the duties under the Genocide Convention and look at recent and contemporary cases of genocidal atrocities. 

Planned sessions: 

January 2023 – Holocaust and the Promise of Never Again

February 2023 – Putin’s War on Ukraine – One Year of Atrocities and the Question of Genocide

March 2023 – The Duty to Prevent Genocide and the Serious Risk of Genocide

April 2023 – Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur — Past Atrocities and the Risk of Future Atrocities 

May 2023 – Justice and Accountability for the Crime of Genocide

June 2023 – Genocide Against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Minorities

July 2023 – The Serious Risk of Genocide in Tigray 

August (in July or online in August 2023) – The Daesh Genocide and the Missing 2,700 Women and Chilren

September 2023- Genocide Against the Rohingyas 

October 2023 – Calls for the Annihilation of Muslims in India 

November 2023 – The Denial of Genocide and the Cost of Doing Nothing 

December 2023 – 75th Anniversary – Towards Comprehensive Mechanisms for Implementation of the Duty to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Genocide

Save The Date: Parliamentary Session Marking the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime 

While the UK Government, and also other governments, are confident in their policies and strategies to respond to genocide, including to prevent genocide, the growing number of atrocity crimes globally, many of which meet the legal definition of genocide, tells a different story. Only this year, two new cases of genocidal atrocities have emerged: of the situation in Ukraine, following Putin’s act of aggression on 24 February; and of the situation of the Hazara in Afghanistan – following the Taliban takeover and lawlessness that followed. Genocides are perpetrated, and will continue to be perpetrated, as States continue to leave genocide prevention to chance.

On 7 December 2022, the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and the Coalition for Genocide Response, will host a Parliamentary session marking the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime (9 December). During the session, speakers will discuss some contemporary cases of genocidal atrocities. Lord Alton will launch a new campaign ‘Not Leaving Genocide Prevention to Chance’ and event series on genocide ‘Genocide Convention at 75: Lessons Learned or Not.’

Session Co-Chairs: Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Kennedy KC

Speakers tbc.

RSVP to genocideresponse@gmail.com

Second Reading of the Genocide Determination Bill [House of Lords]

On 28 October 2022, the UK House of Lords gave the Genocide Determination Bill (the Bill) a Second Reading and agreed that the whole House should give it a Committee Stage. This Bill is a Private Members’ Bill that has cross-party support.

Recent years have witnessed horrific atrocities that may meet the legal definition of genocide, as per Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) including the Daesh atrocities against Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq, the Tatmadaw atrocities against the Rohingyas in Myanmar, the CCP atrocities against the Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, the atrocities against the Tigrayans in Ethiopia, the IS-K and Taliban atrocities against the Hazara in Afghanistan, and as Putin’s war in Ukraine rages on – the serious risk of genocide and the incitement of genocide against the Ukrainians.

And, as many of these atrocities are still contemporaneous, and pose an existential threat to the targeted communities, we are nowhere near to having clear mechanisms to implement ‘the duty to prevent’ imposed by the Genocide Convention upon signatory States, including the UK.

A reform of the UK Government’s response to genocide is urgently needed.

Earlier this year, on the anniversary of being sanctioned by the CCP for our actions in relation to the Uyghurs and Hong Kong, three of our patrons were invited, with the other sanctioned Parliamentarians, to a meeting at 10 Downing Street. The then Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary told them that they would support the reform of how we deal with genocide. Unfortunately, these promises have yet to be followed up.

This Bill seeks to enable that promise to be met and helps to implement the duty to prevent genocide and reform the inadequate approach of the UK Government by introducing two basic mechanisms:

First, in Clause 1, the Bill empowers victims by way of equipping a person or group belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, or an organisation representing such a person or group, with the power to apply to a court for a preliminary determination that there is a serious risk of genocide or that genocide is being or has been committed.

Secondly, in Clause 4 the Bill ensures checks and balances, transparency and oversight over our government responses to genocide globally by way of expanding the already existing mechanism for genocide responses in Section 3 of the Trade Act 2021.

During the House of Lords debate a former FCDO Minister said: ‘The Government’s long-standing policy is that genocide is left to international judicial systems; I articulated that policy from the Dispatch Box when I was an FCDO Minister. However, I was uncomfortable with that policy at the time, and no longer believe it to be correct. We are not seeing it working, because the UK does not have any formal mechanism that allows for the consideration and recognition of mass atrocities that meet the threshold of genocide.’

And UK former Ambassador to the United Nations said: ‘As someone whose conscience was scarred by sitting as Britain’s representative on the UN Security Council during the Rwanda and Srebrenica genocides, I say that this excuse—that is what it is—is shameful… I would call it a Catch-22: a convoluted way of ensuring that nothing is done to determine whether a genocide is taking place, even when we know that it is.’

The full debate may be read at: https://www.davidalton.net/2022/10/28/genocide-determination-bill-given-a-second-reading-in-the-house-of-lords-as-peers-agree-to-commit-it-to-a-committee-of-the-whole-house-for-further-consideration-full-debate/ Or watched at: https://youtu.be/pP7MIZsGhMQ

The all-party Genocide Determination Bill is a crucial first step to reform the UK Government’s responses to genocide.

Watch the speech by Lord Alton here: https://www.davidalton.net/2022/10/28/genocide-determination-bill-given-a-second-reading-in-the-house-of-lords-as-peers-agree-to-commit-it-to-a-committee-of-the-whole-house-for-further-consideration-full-debate/

International Development Committee Publishes New Report on Atrocity Prevention

On 17 October 2022, the International Development Committee, a cross-party parliamentary committee, published its report following an inquiry into the United Kingdom’s role in atrocity prevention internationally. The report considers how the UK’s approach to atrocity prevention could be improved and makes several recommendations for the UK Government to follow.

Commenting upon the report, the Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, said:

‘The last decade has seen terrifying scenes in China, Ethiopia, Syria and Myanmar – to name just a few – and has shown clearly that atrocities don’t only happen in conflict settings. The deep divisions at the top of the United Nations mean we are living in what appears to be an era of impunity when it comes to persecution, segregation and abuse of civilians. The UK is perhaps uniquely placed to be the ‘world’s canary’ when it comes to alerting others around the world of possible atrocities. We have a network of embassies and a strong reputation for acting within the rule of law. We should train and support our Ambassadors to spot the danger signs that could lead to atrocities. That means looking out for hate speech or laws that marginalise or segregate certain groups from society. We can and must focus the international community’s attention to de-escalate these situations.’

The Committee stated that UK’s new strategy must:

  • give greater priority to preventing atrocities by addressing this issue at the highest level of government, within the UK’s recently-created Foreign Policy and Security Council;
  • allocate appropriate funds and staff to the new atrocity prevention team in the Foreign Office;
  • ensure that our diplomats abroad are getting the training and support they need to recognise and act on warning signs; and
  • re-assess whether enough UK aid is reaching countries at risk of atrocities.

The full report can be read here:

Source: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/30270/documents/175201/default/

The Coalition for Genocide Response and Dr Ewelina Ochab made submissions to the inquiry. Both can be found here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1661/promoting-dialogue-and-preventing-atrocities-the-uk-government-approach/publications/

The Taliban Deny Atrocities Against The Hazara

In September 2022, the Hazara Inquiry, a joint effort of cross-party Parliamentarians from both Houses and experts, published their report on the situation of the Hazara in Afghanistan since 2021, finding that Hazara in Afghanistan, as a religious and ethnic minority, are at serious risk of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State–Khorasan Province (IS-K) and the Taliban. This finding engages the responsibility of all states to protect the Hazara and prevent a possible genocide, under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) and customary international law.

In an interview with BBC Persia, a Taliban spokesperson denied that the Hazara are targeted and claimed that all minorities are protected in Afghanistan. Our co-founder, Dr Ewelina Ochab, commented on these claims and presented the findings of the Hazara Inquiry.

Watch the full BBC Persia coverage of the topic below.

The Hazara at Risk of Genocide in Afghanistan

In September 2022, the Hazara Inquiry, a joint effort of cross-party Parliamentarians from both Houses and experts, published their report on the situation of the Hazara in Afghanistan since 2021.

​The report finds that Hazara in Afghanistan, as a religious and ethnic minority, are at serious risk of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State–Khorasan Province (IS-K) and the Taliban. This finding engages the responsibility of all states to protect the Hazara and prevent a possible genocide, under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) and customary international law.

When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, it significantly affected the situation faced by the Hazara and reversed the 20-year progress made in addressing the marginalisation and discrimination experienced by this minority group. The return to power of the Taliban has included brutal acts of violence against the Hazara throughout Afghanistan and a return of terror.

The first half of 2022 has seen hundreds of members of the Hazara community killed and many more injured as a result of the targeted attacks, including bombings of Hazara schools, places of worship and other centres. As this report was being finalised in August 2022, IS-K claimed responsibility for several attacks that resulted in over 120 fatalities within a few days only. Further attacks are expected because of the inaction and impunity in response to the targeting of the Hazara. This trend is likely to continue. There is a pressing need to provide the community with protection, in line with international obligations under the Genocide Convention.

Commenting upon the report, Lord Alton of Liverpool, a member of the Hazara Inquiry and patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response, commented that ‘Over recent months, we have witnessed a serious and increasing risk of genocide against the Hazara. It is urgent that we act to protect this vulnerable targeted community before it is too late. The dire situation faced by Afghanistan’s Hazaras will deteriorate further if the crimes committed against them are met by inaction and impunity. We have duties under the Genocide Convention and it is about time we acted upon them.’

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, member of the Hazara Inquiry, director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response, added, ‘The escalation of hostilities and attacks against the Hazara in Afghanistan require urgent response. We cannot allow the Taliban and IS-K target the Hazara for annihilation in the country – not if we have any respect to the promises we once made – to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.’

Dr Homira May Rezai commented, ‘Hazaras experienced genocidal campaigns in 1890s when almost two third of their population were annihilated as well as in 1990s under the Taliban regime when thousands were targeted and killed. Hazaras who were among the driving force leading the democratisation movement in Afghanistan are once again at risk of genocide. Urgent response is required by the international community and they must act on their duty to prevent genocide in Afghanistan.’

The report was delivered to several government’s officials in the UK, US, Canada, the Netherlands, but also UN and the ICC representatives.

The Hazara Inquiry continues to examine the situation of the Hazara in Pakistan and will be publishing the report over the next months.

The Afghanistan report can be found here.

Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)

Her Majesty was loved and admired by the people in the United Kingdom and beyond.

She has been the strength that the people of the UK (and the world) needed, especially through the difficult times in recent years. She was loved and admired by the people in the United Kingdom and beyond. Her life of service will be an inspiration for many generations to come. Her dedication will continue to move nations to do good for generations to come.

Her Majesty will be dearly missed but Her legacy will live on.

Our thoughts go out to the Royal Family at this difficult time. 

ICC To Investigate The Taliban and IS-K

The Coalition for Genocide Response welcomes the decision of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to proceed with an investigation into alleged crimes, under the jurisdiction of the Court, in relation to the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, having been authorised by the ICC Appeals Chamber in March 2020. 

As announced by the Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan QC, the investigation will focus on the actions of the Taliban and Islamic State of Khoroson (ISIS-K) in Afghanistan.

The Coalition for Genocide Response welcomes the investigations into the crimes, especially as recent months have seen evidence and serious risk of atrocity crimes, including of genocide against the Hazara community. 

Considering the recent developments in Afghanistan, and the Taliban and ISIS-K’s legacy of atrocity crimes that have flourished in impunity for years, this focus is justified. This prioritisation is further affirmed by the limited resources of the ICC.

The ICC’s mandate to prosecute high-level perpetrators where States remain unable or unwilling is one that should be applied consistently and without fear or favour: as such it must not neglect the crimes of other alleged perpetrators in the region including nationals of non-States Parties in Afghanistan at the relevant time. The ICC ought to consider atrocities allegedly perpetrated by other actors when the situation allows.