UK Government Recognises the Yazidi Genocide

On 1 August 2023, the UK Government formally recognised the Daesh atrocities for what they are – genocide. Announcing the news, Minister of State for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad, said:

The Yazidi population suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh nine years ago and the repercussions are still felt to this day. Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated.

Today we have made the historic acknowledgement that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people. This determination only strengthens our commitment to ensuring that they receive the compensation owed to them and are able to access meaningful justice.

The UK will continue to play a leading role in eradicating Daesh, including through rebuilding communities affected by its terrorism and leading global efforts against its poisonous propaganda.

See: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-acknowledges-acts-of-genocide-committed-by-daesh-against-yazidis?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications-topic&utm_source=73605fb6-9857-4211-b878-877eb2e988ed&utm_content=immediately

This determination has been made following the judgment of the German Federal Court of Justice earlier this year, which found a former Daesh fighter guilty of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq.

On 3 August 2023, the world will mark nine years since the Daesh attack on Sinjar. Daesh unleashed prohibited acts against the Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority group in Iraq. Daesh fighters killed hundreds if not thousands of men. As part of the same campaign, Daesh fighters abducted boys to turn them into child soldiers and women and girls for sex slavery. More than 2,700 women and children are still missing and their fate is unknown.

Dr Ewelina Ochab, co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response, welcomed the announcement from the UK Government:

This is an important recognition of the nature and scale of the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against the Yazidis. However, it should not have taken nine years to recognise the atrocities for what they are. We need to do better – this includes implementing the duties under the Genocide Convention. The duty to prevent genocide is not to be tiggered at the serious risk of genocide – a risk of genocide that States should identify, recognise and act upon.

Now we must continue pursuing justice and accountability for the atrocities, including by investigating and prosecuting British Daesh fighters for their involvement in genocide and not for terror-related offences only. We must also explore the best ways to assist the community – including by securing and ensuring their future in Iraq and other countries.

Over the years, the Coalition for Genocide Response has been raising the situation of the Yazidis with the UK Government and calling for formal recognition of the atrocities as genocide, including with a petition delivered to No 10, several joint letters with Yazidi organisations and Parliamentary sessions on the topic.

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.