Parliamentary Session: Past Atrocities and the Risk of Future Atrocities – Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Iran

On 25 April 2023, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and the Coalition for Genocide Response will host a Parliamentary session on ‘Past Atrocities and the Risk of Future Atrocities – Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Iran.’

Speakers include:

Baroness D’Souza, House of Lords

Rebecca Tinsley, President and Founder of Waging Peace

survivors of the atrocities:

Safet Vukalic BEM and Antoinette Mutabazi

and

Nazanin Boniadi, actress and human rights defender

RSVP is required. 

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

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.

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

5:30 – 6:30 PM on 21 February 2023

IPU, Palace of Westminster

Chair: Rt Hon Sir John Whittingdale OBE MP

Speakers include:

Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UK

Azeem Ibrahim, Director, New Lines Institute

Nataliia Visnevska, Ukrainian citizen, resettled to the UK in 2022

Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, Director of IBAHRI, and Hannah Rose Thomas, an artist working with Ukrainian refugees, will also intervene during the session and provide some comments. 

RSVP required. 

Webinar: Ukraine – How The Law Can Hold Putin To Account

24 February is the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Over the last year, millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes, thousands of civilians have been killed, and vital infrastructure has been destroyed.

Acts of aggression – like invasion, attack, and occupation – are proscribed by international law. If intentionally committed by senior leaders, these acts constitute the crime of aggression. This is the same crime that the post-Holocaust Nuremberg Tribunal termed the ‘supreme international crime’. It is from the crime of aggression that other international crimes in conflict settings – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – often flow.

Today, we have an opportunity to repeat the ‘1945 moment’ – by creating a special tribunal to investigate these acts of aggression and hold Russian political and military leaders to account.

Support for a special tribunal has been steadily growing since it was first proposed by Professor Philippe Sands KC days after Russia invaded Ukraine:

  • More than 150 leading international lawyers and world leaders – including Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba – have signed a public declaration backing Sands’ proposal.
  • Countries in Eastern Europe have led the public call for a special tribunal – followed later by the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the European Commission. The list continues to grow.
  • On 20 January 2023, the UK announced its support for the establishment of a special tribunal.

We will hear from two experts with particularly valuable insights into this crucial issue:

  • Aarif Abraham – a specialist in international criminal law who advised Philippe Sands on the creation of a special tribunal
  • Dr Ewelina Ochab – programme lawyer with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Event organised by René Cassin and the Coalition for Genocide Response.

RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ukraine-how-the-law-can-hold-putin-to-account-tickets-529333549897

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 [email protected]

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/