Call The Atrocities Against the Uighur Muslims Genocide – British Parliamentarians Call Upon the UK Government

On 29 June 2020, British Parliamentarians in both Houses called upon the UK Government to call the atrocities perpetrated against the Uighur Muslims genocide.

The urgent call for action follows a newly published report of Prof Adrian Zenz finding that Uighur Muslim women have been subjected to forced sterilisations and forced abortions.

The report finds, among others, that:

“Natural population growth in Xinjiang has declined dramatically; growth rates fell by 84% in the two largest Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and declined further in 2019. For 2020, one Uyghur region set an unprecedented near-zero population growth target.”

The research suggests that “Documents from 2019 reveal plans for a campaign of mass female sterilization in rural Uyghur regions, targeting 14 and 34% of all married women of childbearing age in two Uyghur counties that year. This project targeted all of southern Xinjiang, and continued in 2020 with increased funding.”

“By 2019, Xinjiang planned to subject at least 80% of women of childbearing age in the rural southern four minority prefectures to intrusive birth prevention surgeries (IUDs or sterilizations), with actual shares likely being much higher. In 2018, 80% of all new IUD placements in China were performed in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the region only makes up 1.8% of the nation’s population.”

The Coalition for Genocide Response is concerned that the evidence described by Adrian Zenz is suggestive of China ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group’, which in itself is a genocidal method under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Article II d). 

In light of the additional evidence, British Parliamentarians have been calling upon the UK Government to:

  • make its own determination of the atrocities against the legal definition of genocide or other international crimes;
  • lead the initiative at the UN to establish an independent investigative body to engage on the issue;
  • review its relationship with China.

Elsewhere, a group of senior legislators under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) launched a global campaign:

  • For a resolution to be tabled at the United Nations General Assembly establishing an investigation into the situation in the Xinjiang Region.
  • For governments to ensure that the appropriate legal determinations are made regarding the nature of alleged atrocities. Including the claims that the People’s Republic of China is pursuing and enforcing a coordinated policy to reduce the population of minority groups in the region.
  • For rapid and decisive political action to be taken to prevent the further suffering of the Uyghur people and other minorities in China. The international community must show its determination to defend human rights globally.

The Coalition for Genocide Response wishes to join the calls for an independent inquiry into the atrocities, the determination of the atrocities for what they are, and for justice for the victims and survivors.

The Coalition For Genocide Response Joins The Call To Assist Those In Need In Cameroon Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

(Toronto, London)  A group of world leaders is calling on Cameroon’s warring parties to lower their weapons to let health workers tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Nobel Peace Prize laureates, former heads of state, and others are asking the government of Cameroon and the Anglophone militias fighting for independence to declare a humanitarian ceasefire, echoing the UN’s global ceasefire call. The conflict in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions began in 2016 and has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than half a million people to flee their homes. Cameroon has one of Africa’s highest rates of COVID-19 infection, and civilians are caught between conflict and coronavirus.

The Global Campaign for Peace & Justice in Cameroon today issues a COVID-19 ceasefire challenge to the Cameroon government and the non-state armed group leaders in the Anglophone conflict. They also challenge select international bodies to use all tools at their disposal to encourage a ceasefire. They are joined by 15 respected leaders in the international community as follows:

Doctor Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize 2018, Panzi Hospital and Foundation, Democratic Republic of the Congo and United States of America

Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize 2006, Founder of the Grameen Bank, People’s Republic of Bangladesh

The Honourable José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize 1996, Former President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

The Honourable FW de Klerk, Nobel Peace Prize 1993, Former President of the Republic of South Africa

The Honourable Oscar Arias Sánchez, Nobel Peace Prize 1987, Former President of the Republic of Costa Rica

The Right Honourable Joe Clark, Former Prime Minister of Canada, Former Foreign Minister and Minister of Constitutional Affairs of Canada

The Honourable Ricardo Lagos, Former President of Chile

International Council of Nurses, Swiss Confederation

The Right Honourable Harriet Baldwin, Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, Former United Kingdom Joint Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

The Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell, Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, Former United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development

US Ambassador (ret.) R. Niels Marquardt, Former United States of America Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon

US Ambassador (ret.) John Yates, Former United States of America Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon

US Ambassador (ret.) Harriet Isom, Former United States of America Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon

Doctor Simon Adams, Executive Director of The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, United States of America

Ms. Ewelina U. Ochab, Co-Founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response, United Kingdom

[Cameroonian names are intentionally withheld]

Together we:

  • Applaud UN Secretary-General Guterres’s call for a global ceasefire to mitigate COVID-19 in conflict zones, including in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions;
  • Echo this ceasefire call, and emphasize that COVID-19 cases cannot be reduced while infrastructure is being attacked, populations are harmed and displaced, and medical and humanitarian aid cannot reach all parts of the North-West and South-West regions; and note that the rate of coronavirus infection in Cameroon is among the highest in Africa;
  • Implore all parties to put the people’s immediate health, lives and livelihoods ahead of military objectives;
  • Challenge the warring parties in Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict to bravely and publicly declare a humanitarian ceasefire, as follows:

1 – We challenge the government and military of the Republic of Cameroon to call a ceasefire in the two Anglophone regions.

The government of the Republic of Cameroon holds a special responsibility to protect its citizens under international law. Citizens cannot be protected from COVID-19 and other catastrophic health threats in an active war zone. There should be a ceasefire to:

  • protect human life, health workers, patients, health facilities, and ambulances
  • allow unfettered access of humanitarian aid to the North-West and South-West regions

2 – We challenge all non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in the two Anglophone regions to call a ceasefire.

Thank you to APLM-SOCADEF for already declaring and renewing a temporary ceasefire. All other non-state armed groups are challenged to declare a ceasefire as well, to protect citizens from COVID-19 and other catastrophic health threats in an active war zone, and:

  • protect human life, health workers, patients, health facilities, and ambulances
  • allow unfettered access of humanitarian aid to the North-West and South-West regions

3 – We challenge the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General, the African Union and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Commonwealth, and La Francophonie to:

  • use all instruments of power at their disposal to urge the Republic of Cameroon to call a COVID-19 ceasefire
  • ensure that Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict is on the agenda of the forthcoming UN Security Council meeting and all UNOCA sessions before the UNSC

The Global Campaign for Peace & Justice in Cameroon is an informal group of academics, activists, journalists, lawyers, and other concerned citizens around the world who believe in the urgent need for a peaceful resolution of Cameroon’s Anglophone conflict. For further information: www.cameroonpeacejustice.ca

Available for media interviews:

Simon Adams and Juliette Pauuwe, The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (NYC) jpaauwe@globalr2p.org   +1 212 817 1930 (land)   +1 347 967 7333 (mobile)        

The Global Campaign for Peace & Justice in Cameroon

Contact: cameroonpeacejustice@gmail.com

                      

The Gambia Seeks Limited Discovery From Facebook On Myanmar Officials Allegedly Involved In The Genocide Of The Rohingya Muslims

On 8 June 2020, The Gambia has filed an application for discovery, with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, to compel Facebook to provide information related to personal Facebook accounts of Myanmar officials. The information sought is to be used in ‘an action brought by the Republic of The Gambia against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands’ for the commission of the crime of genocide against the Rohingya people.

The application indicates that ‘statements on social media, including Facebook, made by officials and representatives of Myanmar hostile to the Rohingya, or encouraging violence against them, including but not limited to statements made by senior military officers directed at rank-and-file soldiers or armed civilians who carried out attacks against the Rohingya, may constitute evidence of genocidal intent necessary o support a finding of responsibility for genocide.’

‘Facebook is a dominant platform in Myanmar of disseminating anti-Rohingya hate speech and incitement to violence. Indeed, an independent report commissioned by Facebook found that the platform “is being used [in Myanmar] by bad actors to spread hate speech, incite violence, and coordinate harm.” Moreover, the UN Fact-Finding Mission concluded that such hate speech is directed against the Rohingya and is pervasive in Myanmar, and that “messages portraying Rohingya as violent, dishonest, anti-Bamar, anti-Buddhist, illegal immigrants and/or terrorists… are particularly widespread on social media.’

The application further states ‘Using the Facebook platform, the military has circulated discriminatory posts to generate fear, mistrust and hatred against Rohingya Muslims.’

Facebook now banned Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Amed Forced, and 19 other military individuals and organisations from its platform. The content has now been removed. However, has preserved the content of these pages and ‘should be available to properly constituted international and national judicial authorities for accountability purposes.’

You can find the court papers here: https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.218820/gov.uscourts.dcd.218820.1.1.pdf

Further on Facebook removing relevant content: http://about.fb.com/news/2018/08/removing-myanmar-officials/

UN General Assembly Proclaims 9 September As The International Day to Protect Education From Attack

End of May 2020, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 9 September as the International Day to Protect Education from Attack. The resolution ‘reaffirms the right to education for all and the importance of ensuring safe enabling learning environments in humanitarian emergencies, as well as quality education at all levels, including for girls, including technical and vocational training opportunities, where possible, including through adequate funding and infrastructural investments, for the well-being of all, in this regard recognizes that access to quality education in humanitarian emergencies can contribute to long-term development goals and reiterates the need to protect and respect educational facilities in accordance with international humanitarian law, strongly condemns all attacks directed against schools and the use of schools for military purposes, when in contravention of international humanitarian law, and encourages efforts to promote safe and protective school environments in humanitarian emergencies reaffirming the right to education for all and stressing the need of ensuring safe learning environments in humanitarian emergencies.’

Among others, the resolution recognises that ‘many children in armed conflict, in particular girls, lack access to education owing to attacks against schools, damaged or destroyed school buildings, mines and unexploded ordnance, insecurity, the prevalence of violence, including gender-based violence, in and around schools and loss of documentation.’

Indeed, some perpetrators have been targeting schools as their weapon of choice. For example, Boko Haram, a radical Islamist terrorist group, has been targetting schools because of the belief that schools teach Western values. Boko Haram conducts attacks in predominately Muslim states and the majority of abducted girls are Muslim. However, Christian girls have also been targeted by Boko Haram. Christian girls abducted by Boko Haram are forced to convert to Islam (and/or marry their abductors). Among others, Leah Sharibu, a 16-year-old Nigerian girl, one of the 110 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram members from their school in Dapchi in February 2018, continues to be enslaved despite the fact that all of the other girls have now been released. According to one of the other girls, Leah declined to renounce her Christian faith and this is the very reason Boko Haram continues to enslave her.  Similarly, attacks on Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt disrupt access to education of children in that region. 

The Coalition for Genocide Response welcomes the UN General Assembly resolution and pledges to use the opportunity of the UN day to speak against attacks on education and ensure the safety of all children at schools.

You can find the UN General Assembly resolution here: https://www.un.org/pga/74/wp-content/uploads/sites/99/2020/05/A_74_L.66.pdf

Calling Upon States To Prosecute Foreign Terrorist Fighters For International Crimes

In May 2020, the European Network of contact points in respect of persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes’ (the ‘Genocide Network’) and Eurojust, an EU agency, published a report ‘Cumulative prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters for core international crimes and terrorism-related offence.’ 

The report makes a clear case that:

The acts of violence meet the legal definitions of core international crimes and should therefore be investigated and prosecuted by national authorities to avoid impunity for these crimes. Prosecuting Daesh fighters for core international crimes they have committed will not only fulfil the legal obligation of States to prosecute the most serious international crimes, crimes against humanity, war crimes or the crime of genocide, but will also lead to a more tailored approach, longer sentences and the full criminal responsibility of perpetrators. Furthermore, by recognising and naming these crimes for what they are, justice is brought to the victims.’

Over the last five years, Lord Alton of Liverpool, peer at the UK House of Lords, has been raising the need to prosecute Daesh fighters (and Daesh foreign fighters on their return home) for international crimes, most notably, for genocide against religious minorities as Yazidis and Christians.  The Coalition for Genocide Response was established to, among others, continue with this work. 

In July 2019, a recommendation on prosecuting Daesh fighters was included in the Bishop of Truro review (the Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians). Recommendation 21b, that was accepted by the UK Government, calls upon the ‘FCO to champion the prosecution of ISIS perpetrators of sex crimes against Yazidi and Christian women, not only as terrorists.’

The Coalition for Genocide Response sent a written submission to the FCO calling upon it to ensure that as they champion the prosecutions of Daesh fighters, they ensure that Daesh fighters are prosecuted for international crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity, and where not possible, a litany of other criminal conduct. 

The Coalition for Genocide Response restates the urgent need to 1) recognise the Daesh atrocities for what they are and 2) prosecute the perpetrators for the crimes.

40 Minutes On Human Rights With… Bishop Philip Mounstephen

On 4 May 2020, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Luke de Pulford and Ewelina Ochab hosted the first webinar from the series ‘40 Minutes on Human Rights with…’ The webinar series will be featuring guest speakers working on various aspects of human rights.

The first guest speaker, Bishop of Truro, Rt. Rev. Philip Mounstephen, who conducted the Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO support for Persecuted Christians.

The address from Bishop Philip:

‘Good morning everyone. I’m honoured to have been asked to launch the first of these webinars looking at contemporary issues in human rights – and today we’re starting with the issue of religious persecution, or the denial of Freedom of Religion or Belief if you prefer, recognising that the latter term is slightly wider in its scope.

I should start these few words with a confession and with a caveat.

My confession is that when Ewelina first asked me to do this my instinct was to decline. There was, I figured, quite enough going on in the Diocese of Truro to excuse me from this. But then, I thought, it’s precisely because of this current crisis that I need to do this. This coronavirus crisis is huge – but if we allow it to become the only story, and our defining narrative, we will in effect be turning a blind eye to some grave and continuing injustices in this world, including the systematic denial of FoRB. That is why this webinar series is so timely – and is why indeed after my initial reluctance to do it, I accepted the invitation. Persecution, we have to remember, takes no holiday.

My caveat is that I do not pretend to be an expert on this issue. I was drafted in at short notice to lead the FCO sponsored review into this issue last year, so inevitably I’ve been significantly exposed to the issue, and indeed try my best to keep abreast of it. But I don’t pretend to be an expert and there are almost certainly many here today who are much better informed than I am – and I hope we will hear from them during our time together.

But to come back to the Review I chaired, I suggested that there were two existential threats to human flourishing and harmonious communities in the world today – or rather in the world when I was writing it. One, I suggested, was climate change and the other was the systematic denial of FoRB. I suggested that we had begun to take one seriously, and it was high time we did the same with the other.

It’s worth asking how the current crisis has impacted them both. Clearly carbon emissions have been significantly reduced. Whether that situation will continue remains to be seen, though I hope it will. But what of the denial of FoRB? What does that look like in a time of coronavirus?

A central thesis of my report was that the systematic denial of FoRB should be of pressing concern to western governments not only because it’s an issue worthy of attention in its own right but because of the sinister nature of the forces driving it: forces have which significantly grown in power in recent years and which sometimes overlap.

Those four forces are these: crime on a semi-industrial scale where governments are weak, especially in Latin America; religious fundamentalism which includes but is certainly not limited to Islamic fundamentalism; authoritarian governments that are intolerant of dissent, and militant nationalism that is often intolerant and suspicious of minorities.

So what might be happening in each of these scenarios in this current crisis?

I suggest, sadly, that in probably every one of these contexts persecution is like to be on the rise. To take the situation of organised crime often driven by the drugs trade and gang warfare: those weak governments which struggled to contain it at the best of times are hardly likely to be in a better position to tackle it now when so much of their energy is taken up with containing this current health crisis.

In a situation where religious fundamentalism drives the denial of FoRB again, I suspect, the outlook is unlikely to be better. Here too governments will be distracted; the attention of news media will be directed elsewhere, so the current crisis could act as a cloak for increased persecution. Certainly anecdotal reports from Nigeria in recent days have been far from encouraging. Added to which it’s hard to imagine Boko Haram sitting quietly at home practicing social distancing.

And what of authoritarian governments that are intolerant of dissent? Again I think the picture is unlikely to be encouraging. There have been suggestions in the media in recent days that the position of people such as Vladimir Putin and President Xi are less secure than once they were because of their failures in managing the pandemic, but I suspect reports of their demise are likely to be exaggerated. It’s an irony of our time that one country which has been lauded for its effective handling of the crisis is Vietnam – but it’s been able to do so because of its own authoritarian and repressive command and control regime under which Christians certainly have certain suffered repression and a denial of their FoRB.

In general we should expect to see authoritarian governments using the cloak of the pandemic to accrue more power to themselves and to use that in increasingly repressive ways.

And all that I’ve said about such governments could also be said of the forces of militant nationalism that are inherently intolerant and suspicious of minorities and of ‘difference’ and are likely to be even more repressive of them in the current contexts. And it is of course an age-old human reflex to construct conspiracy theories and to blame and victimise those who are different when crises come. I see no reason why this current situation should be an exception to that rule.

And to those four factors I think we should also add the inevitable distraction of western governments from this issue due to their own efforts to contain and manage their own contexts faced with this pandemic. There will precious little extra bandwidth available for the protection of minorities elsewhere in the world.

So my general take is that the current crisis is unlikely to be good news for upholding the right of FoRB globally – though I’d be delighted to be told I’m wrong!

And I think we should be equally cautious about the world beyond this current crisis. What kind of world will be going into? Speaking here from Cornwall the death toll has been relatively low – but I think the economic hit we are likely to take will be very significant – and I don’t think we should underestimate generally how great the economic impact will be: I’m suspicious of the language of bounce-back given the damage we’ll have sustained.

So in a post-Covid 19 world a huge amount of western governments’ energy and attention will go into domestic economic recovery, with, again, little bandwidth for other issues. Globally countries where persecution is already an issue will face sharp economic pressures, and those pressures always tend to exacerbate rather than relieve persecution.  

So I’m not, sadly, sanguine for the future. If there is one point of light it lies in the observation that in this season we’ve never been more isolated – but have never been better connected. My hope is that that connectivity will endure, that the voices and stories of the persecuted will be better heard and that the clandestine cloak upon which persecution so often relies will increasingly be denied to it. That at least is my hope, and indeed that is my prayer. Thank you very much.’

UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee Warns About Ongoing Atrocities In Rakhine And Chin States

On 29 April 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called for an investigation into allegations of ongoing atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin States.

As the UN Special Rapporteur emphasised, ‘While the world is occupied with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Myanmar military continues to escalate its assault in Rakhine State, targeting the civilian population.’ The UN Special Rapporteur added that ‘The Tatmadaw is systematically violating the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and human rights. Its conduct against the civilian population of Rakhine and Chin States may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. All parties to the conflict, including the Arakan Army, must also protect civilians.’

The UN Special Rapporteur stressed the urgent need to investigate the alleged atrocities and to bring all responsible to account.

The UN Special Rapporteur further raised the issue of tight restrictions on humanitarian access since January 2019 to many parts of Myanmar, humanitarian workers being targeted in the conflict, journalists going into hiding in fear of arrest having reported on the conflict, and the mobile internet shutdown since June 2019.

Lastly, the UN Special Rapporteur called upon Myanmar and its security forces to abide by the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures.

See more on the provisional measures here.

See full statement from the UN Special Rapporteur here.

Germany Proceeds With Its First Genocide Trial Of A Daesh Fighter

In October 2019, our co-founder, Ewelina Ochab, reported that Germany was to conduct its first genocide trial of a Daesh fighter, Taha A.-J.

The man was extradited to Germany in October, where he has since been held in pre-trial custody before his trial begun in late April 2020.

According to the press statement, the man is accused of having joined Daesh, a terror organisation, before March 2013. The allegations state that in the summer of 2015, Taha A.-J. and Jennifer W. “purchased” and enslaved a five-year-old Yazidi girl and her mother. The couple kept the woman and girls enslaved in Fallujah, Iraq, and subjected them to forced conversion and physical abuse including battery and starvation. Allegedly, Taha A.-J. chained the girl outside and left her there to die of thirst. 

The atrocities that Taha A.-J. and Jennifer W. are accused of are a part of a larger campaign of atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq. The atrocities carried out by Daesh are recognised by international institutions, several parliaments and a few governments as genocide carried out by way of mass murder, torture, abuse, slavery, rape and sexual abuse, forced displacement and much more. 

Ewelina Ochab comments:

As there is still no international tribunal that would have the jurisdiction to prosecute Daesh fighters for the atrocities perpetrated in Iraq or Syria, and with Iraqi courts unable to ensure justice, the pro-active approach taken by German courts must be commended. Other states should extend a helping hand and exercise the universal jurisdiction to prosecute some of the worst atrocities that we have witnessed in the recent times. Indeed, over the years, several states have exercised universal jurisdiction to ensure that victims see some justice being done during their lifetimes. There is no reason not to do so in the case of Daesh atrocities. Alternatively, states must work together to establish an international ad-hoc tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators. The victims and survivors of Daesh atrocities deserve to see justice being done. The world needs to see the end of the impunity for atrocities that has diminished our faith in the international systems.

For updates on the trial, see the joint statement from Amal Clooney, Natalie von Wistinghausen and Yazda.

UN Expert Warns Against Religious Hatred And Intolerance Amid Covid19 Outbreak

On 22 April 2020, Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, issued a statement concerned about the increased religious hatred and intolerance amid Covid19 outbreak.

The UN Special Rapporteur emphasised that:

“The pandemic has caused a flare-up in existing religious intolerance in many countries. I am alarmed to see the upsurge in incitement to hatred, scapegoating religious or belief communities, including Christians, Jews, and Muslims for the spread of virus.”

He further stressed that certain groups are particularly vulnerable during the Covid19 pandemic:

“Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from different minority groups have also been similarly stigmatised. Those targeted also have faced verbal abuse, death threats, physical attacks and experienced discrimination accessing public services, including denial of vital health services.”

The UN Special Rapporteur called upon everyone to play their part in addressing this dire situation, including:

“I urge civil society and faith-based organisations to widely communicate and assist those in vulnerable situations, regardless of their belief or ethnic background.” 

“States must also be non-discriminatory in assisting those in need and ensure that everyone has fair access to all public and health services.”

“States, all religious leaders and faith actors should step up in promoting social inclusion and solidarity as well as combating incitement to hatred through engagement and education.”

“I appeal to States, faith leaders, civil society, media and general public to reject hate and exclusion and provide support and solidarity to those who could be victimised at this difficult time.”

The full statement can be found here.