Webinar: Turning Her Body into a Weapon of Persecution/Genocide: Rape and Sexual Violence Against Uyghur Women

On 8 March 2021, the Coalition for Genocide Response, René Cassin, World Uyghur Congress, Stop Uyghur Genocide and Yet Again organised a webinar on: Turning Her Body into a Weapon of Persecution/Genocide: Rape and Sexual Violence Against Uyghur Women.

The panellists discussed the issue of rape and sexual violence as a weapon against the Uyghur women and how it translates into international crimes requiring an urgent response.

The panellists were:

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Cross-bench Peer, Patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Rahima Mahmut, Director of the World Uyghur Congress (UK)

Laura Marks OBE, Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Abid Shamdeen, Executive Director of Nadia’s Initiative

Watch it here:

The Prime Minister Responds To Our Letter, Not To The Call

On 27 January 2021, a group of NGOs and religious leaders, led by the Coalition for Genocide Response, sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to introduce changes to the UK’s genocide responses. Among others, the letter called upon the Prime Minister to take the very first step needed to ensure a more effective response to genocide, namely, introducing mechanisms for monitoring and assessment of risk factors of genocide and determination.

The letter can be found here:

London, 27 January 2021

Dear Prime Minister,

On this occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day, we write to urge the Government to mark the day by committing to a more proactive response to genocide.

After the egregious Nazi crimes, states have been promising to never again allow such mass atrocities to be perpetrated. However, time and time again, the international community has failed to deliver on its solemn promise. This failure is, in large part, because the states themselves, including the UK, are not effectively fulfilling their duties under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention). Again and again, we are failing to act to prevent genocide, doing little to suppress it, failing to give the full support needed to those affected and shying away from prosecuting perpetrators. 

As Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who coined the word genocide after losing 49 members of his family in the Holocaust, asked: ‘Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of an individual?’ Decades later, this is still true and, therefore, we are asking you, as Prime Minister: Why do we keep responding to lesser offences with more seriousness than to such mass atrocities as genocide?

Only in the last few years, we have been witnessing several instances of mass atrocities meeting the legal definition of genocide, including those perpetrated by Daesh against the Yazidis, Christians and others; by the Myanmar military against the Rohingyas; by Boko Haram and Fulani militia against Christians in Nigeria; and, by the Chinese Community Party against the Uyghurs.

None of these cases exist in a vacuum or occur without warning. Time and time again there were warning signs meeting the internationally recognised risk factors of genocide, that were not acted upon. States, including the UK, have a responsibility to prevent genocide at the very moment a state learns or should have learned of the serious risk of genocide. In all of the cases listed above, no state can realistically claim that they do, or did, not know about the serious risk of genocide. 

As the UK and other states continue to look the other way, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are worried more about diplomatic and economic interests than protecting the world’s most vulnerable communities from annihilation. Actions speak louder than words. The lack of action means that those conducting the crime still believe they can act with impunity. Impunity begets further crime. If we do not stand up now, this will be the legacy that we leave for future generations who will only see more and more such atrocities.

We were profoundly concerned that the government chose not to support the Alton Amendment (the Genocide Amendment) to the Trade Bill as it sends a wrong message to states involved in such atrocities. The Genocide Amendment is an important first step towards the UK taking back control over its genocide response strategies. The UK, as a party to the Genocide Convention, is the duty bearer, not the UN or other international bodies. We urge the Government to reconsider its position for the refined Genocide Amendment, and instead choose to signal that now is the time the UK will stand up for those facing annihilation.

On this Holocaust Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to millions who perished, we must recognise that the only way we can truly honour them is by doing better, rather than by simply echoing an increasingly empty promise of never again.

We call upon you, as Prime Minister, to lead the UK Government towards a more proactive genocide response to prevent more communities being targeted for annihilation. We call upon you, as Prime Minister, to take the very first step needed to ensure more effective address to genocide, by introducing mechanisms for assessment of risk factors of genocide and determination (including as stipulated in the Genocide Amendments or the Genocide Determination Bill) to equip the UK Government to be able to make informed responses to genocide. We owe it not just to the six million who perished in the Holocaust, the 8,000 men and boys massacred at Srebrenica or 600,000 killed in Rwanda, but to the millions of humans who currently face the looming and real threat of genocidal acts. Our generation should not be one that turns away, as so many have before.

As the UK has left the EU this is the perfect time for us to redefine ourselves and affirm our moral position globally. We need your vision for genocide prevention. No empty promises. We need your leadership on the issue of genocide responses. No excuses. Informed responses to genocide start with recognising the issue, recognising the risk of genocide or of genocide being perpetrated. No empty promises. No excuses.

Yours sincerely,

Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, Coalition for Genocide Response, Rene Cassin, Waging Peace, The Rights Practice, Gender and Religious Freedom, Open Doors UK & Ireland, Humanists UK, CSW, End Transplant Abuse in China, Crown Christian Heritage Trust, All Faiths Network, Coptic Orthodox Church, Refcemi, Steadfast Global

The Response

The Prime Minister responded to the letter but not to the call. In a letter dated 4 March 2021, the Prime Minister commented on the situation of Uyghurs in China and the steps taken by the UK Government in response. The Prime Minister further commented upon the Genocide Amendment and the Neill’s Amendment. However, the Prime Minister failed to acknowledge and respond to the issue that changes needed to the UK’s Government’s responses to genocide are much greater than as stipulated in the Neill’s Amendment. Indeed, the UK Government does not monitor risk factors of genocide, analyse then and make determinations of a serious risk of genocide as per the International Court of Justice’s 2007 Judgment in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro.

The response can be found here:

How Did The Economist Get It This Wrong?

Our co-founder, Ewelina U. Ochab, joined several lawyers and genocide scholars challenging the recent piece published by the Economist. Read it here:

Letter to the Economist

On February 13, 2021, The Economist ran a piece, “Genocide” is the wrong word for the horrors of Xinjiang, making several claims that are erroneous and need to be addressed. Genocide is not a word that should be used lightly. However, it does not mean that it should not be used. Indeed, where the elements of the legal definition are met (as per Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention)), the crimes should be labelled exactly for what they are. 

‘Genocide’ as defined by the Genocide Convention and customary international law (and indeed US domestic law) does not necessarily entail the immediate destruction of the group by ‘mass slaughter.’ Destruction of the group (in whole or in part) must be the intended result, but this may be achieved in a number of ways. In the case of the Uyghurs, in terms of the legal test, allegations include killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (including physical abuse, rape and sexual violence), deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to destroy the group (by way of concentration camps, forced labour and other atrocities as a whole), imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (by way of forced sterilisations, forced abortions, and also rape), forcibly transferring Uyghur children to another group. These acts are supported by evidence of the specific intent to destroy this ethno-religious group. This is in addition that to the fact that the specific intent can be inferred from the pattern and systemic nature of the atrocities. Understandably, each element of genocide has to be scrutinised in consideration of all the available evidence. It is wrong to claim that the US Administration woke up one day and decided to call the atrocities against the Uyghurs genocide. Indeed, the State Department has been working on the topic for months and uphold their own obligations between parties. 

In a perfect world, the allegations of genocide against the Uyghurs would be considered by an international court or tribunal or a specially established UN investigative mechanism, but this has not been done and it is unlikely to happen, given China’s powerful position at the UN and reservations to, or non-membership of, relevant treaties. This, however, does not preclude States making their own determination. In fact, States, as the duty holder under the Genocide Convention, must make such determinations to inform they responses. 

The article misses the fact that the Genocide Convention imposes certain duties upon States: the duty to prevent and punish. 

The duty to prevent genocide is extensive and critical. As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro clarified, the duty to prevent: ‘Arise[s] at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.’ If this is the case, States must conduct their monitoring, analysis and determination of at least the serious risk of genocide very early on – in order to engage their duties. This ultimately means that States need to engage with considerations surrounding the legal elements of genocide and/or risk factors, as for example, per the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and Jacob Blaustein Institute’s Compilation of Risk Factors and Legal Norms for the Prevention of Genocide. As such, where, after the analysis of all relevant evidence, States conclude that the evidence indicates commission of genocide or a serious risk of genocide, such an analysis should not be disregarded as an ‘exaggeration’ or ‘rhetorical escalation.’ 

In order to ‘punish genocide’, States must introduce domestic laws to give effect to the Genocide Convention, including, criminalising genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide. This is where meeting the precise elements of the crime are crucial as otherwise the charges would not stand. 

It accomplishes nothing to reject such an analysis of the evidence and using euphemisms out of fear of upsetting the state perpetrating genocide. There are practical effects of a determination. Indeed, and again, as per the ICJ, once the state learns or should have learned about the serious risk of genocide, ‘from that moment onwards, if the State has available to it means likely to have a deterrent effect on those suspected of preparing genocide, or reasonably suspected of harbouring specific intent (dolus specialis), it is under a duty to make such use of these means as the circumstances permit.’ 

Claims that an analysis of the situation is an ‘exaggeration’ or ‘rhetorical escalation’, and this without any evidence in support, means that States may well evade acting upon their duties claiming that the trigger for the duty to prevent is not reached. That has too often been the case as the world watches genocides take place.

In a world where genocide still occurs, despite the promises of Never Again, inaction is not an option. We need to ensure that we are equipped to prevent genocide as the cost of allowing it is too great: it is the cost of lives and it is also the cost of our humanity.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

Ewelina U. Ochab, Co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response 

Zachary D. Kaufman, JD, PhD, Associate Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Houston Law Centre

Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University

John Packer, Neuberger-Jesin Professor of International Conflict Resolution at the Faculty of Law and Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa

Michael Polak, Barrister, Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, Committee World Uyghur Congress London Office 

Nury Turkel, Attorney, Co-founder and Board Chair of the Uyghur Human Rights Project

Joanne Smith Finley, Reader in Chinese Studies, East Asian Studies, School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University

Coalition for Genocide Response Joins the UN Intersessional Meeting on the Prevention of Genocide

On 10 February 2021, Ewelina U. Ochab, the co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response, joined the UN Intersessional Meeting on the Prevention of Genocide. The session is aimed at accommodating a dialogue and cooperation in strengthening capacities for the prevention of genocide with a view to sharing good practices, achievements, challenges and lessons learned in three main areas: (i) the strengthening of national capacities; (ii) the promotion of States’ participation in regional and sub-regional initiatives; and (iii) the strengthening of early warning and prevention mechanisms within the United Nations system.

We must bridge the gap between the duties under the Genocide Convention and their realisation. This bridge includes states introducing comprehensive monitoring and assessment mechanisms. This also includes states taking ownership over their genocide determinations and using such a determination to inform their responses. In a world where genocide still occurs, despite the promises of Never Again, inaction is not an option. We need to ensure that we are equipped to prevent genocide as the cost of allowing it is too great: it is the cost of lives and it is also the cost of our humanity.

Ewelina U. Ochab, co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Read the statement here or watch on UN TV.

Read the full written statement here:

The Genocide Amendment Is To Go Back To The House Of Lords

On 9 February 2021, the UK Government avoided defeat at the House of Commons (by 318 to 303) after the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill was grouped with another amendment and subject to one vote for both. The results also comes hours after media outlets reported that some Tory MPs have been subjected to pressures to comply and vote against the Genocide Amendment or face consequences.

The Genocide Amendment enables the High Court to consider and make a preliminary determination of genocide in cases where the UK’s trading partner stands accused of committing genocide. Where the High Court makes the determination of genocide, it would refer the trade deal back to Parliament to have the final say and the Government to act upon. Read more here.

The Genocide Amendment would have led to the UK taking control over its genocide determination and fulfilling its duties under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention). The Genocide Amendment would make the UK the first country in the world to allow genocide determination being done by a domestic court and fully divorced from political considerations.

The Genocide Amendment is to go back to the House of Lords as ping pong continues.

While the result of today’s political game is highly disappointing and does not give much hope that the UK Government is taking the issue of genocide seriously, the Genocide Amendment has been uniting many fronts to send a clear message that we cannot trade with states committing genocide.

We need to put victims of genocide first, not states trading genocide. We need to care for the victims of genocide, not the diplomatic relationship with states perpetrating genocide. The choice is not between what is right and ‘righter’; the choice is between what is right and what is wrong. Trading with states perpetrating genocide and doing business as usual is pure wrong.

Concerning News on the Day of the Vote on the Genocide Amendment

We are highly concerned about the news that the Genocide Amendment is grouped with another amendment and both are subject to one vote. While both refer to human rights issues, the amendments are significantly different and propose different mechanisms that require separate consideration and vote on their merits.

We are also highly concerned about the reports of the some Tory MPs being pressured to follow the party line rather than vote with their conscience. We hope that all such allegations will be dully investigated and addressed.

Time to Bridge the Gap in the UK’s Genocide Responses

There is a gap in the UK’s genocide responses. This is as the UK does not monitor and assess risk factors of genocide and make its own determinations to inform its responses.

The Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill aims to bridge the gap.

The Genocide Amendment enables the High Court to consider and make a preliminary determination of genocide in cases where the UK’s trading partner stands accused of committing genocide. Where the High Court makes the determination of genocide, it would refer the trade deal back to Parliament to have the final say.

The Genocide Amendment aims to prevent the UK from becoming complicit in the genocide of its trading partners, and to deter genocide by preventing the UK continuing, or striking, preferential trade deals with countries committing genocide.

The Coalition for Genocide Response strongly welcomes this initiative as a novel way of enabling the UK to come closer to honouring its obligations under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention).

More information here:

Contact your MP and ask them to bridge the gap in the UK’s genocide responses.

We Need To Do More To Address Genocide And The Genocide Amendment Is The First Step

We need to do more to address genocide and the Genocide Amendment is the first step in the right direction.

Today, the House of Commons considers Lords’ amendments to the Trade Bill. Among them is the Genocide Amendment, tabled by Lord Alton of Liverpool, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, and Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. The Genocide Amendment aims to equip the High Court of England and Wales to make a determination of genocide, a determination that could be then subsequently used to revoke international bilateral trade agreements with the state standing accused of committing genocide. The Genocide Amendment received significant support of 287 to 161, ultimately affirming that one should not trade with states perpetrating genocide.

The House of Commons will vote on the Genocide Amendment around 5:20PM. Contact your MP! Ask to support! Ask to stand with victims and survivors and not with genocidal states! Time to put our priorities right!

What Happened To The Promise? The Situations of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020

On 9th December 2020, Lord Alton of Liverpool and the Coalition for Genocide Response organised a webinar marking the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, focusing on the Ottoman Empire’s genocide against the Armenians and the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh today.

The Armenian genocide took place between 1915 and 1923 when 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were arrested, deported or murdered by the Ottoman Empire. Currently, some 32 countries recognise the events as meeting the legal definition of genocide. The formal recognition of historic cases as genocide is not a matter of semantics. Such a formal recognition is crucial for survivors and their families in their efforts to move on. It is crucial for reconciliation and discovery of the truth. It is also crucial to deter similar crimes in the future, to ensure that such atrocities do not happen again.

However, as in the case of Armenians, in 2020, we see early warning signs that the practices that targeted the communities over 100 years ago in the Ottoman Empire are being reinforced yet again.

The panellists discussed the warning signs of mass atrocities and the needed responses to ensure that the Armenians are not let down yet again.

Speakers included:

Lord David Alton of Liverpool, Crossbench peer at the UK House of Lords, Patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Baroness Caroline Cox, Crossbench peer at the UK House of Lords, Founder of HART

Geoffrey Robertson QC, Founder and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers

Gulnara Shahinian, human rights expert and author

Watch it here:

Prof. Javaid Rehman Speaking At ’40 Minutes On Human Rights With…’

The following is a speech delivered by Prof. Javaid Rehman during a webinar ’40 Minutes on Human Rights with…’

Thank you very much for this invitation to speak on Religious Minorities in Pakistan.  

It would be useful to provide you with a brief background on the subject.  I will then move on to some of the current concerns relating to minority rights in Pakistan, and finally I will provide some recommendations for future policy actions, particularly pertinent to the UK government.

Pakistan, as you know, was carved out of British India and emerged as an independent, sovereign state on 14 August 1947.  The raison d’etre of the new State was to safeguard the interest of Muslim minorities – who it was feared would be otherwise subjugated and discriminated in a Hindu majority India.  This religious-based incision of India also resulted in a physically anomalous Pakistan, geographically separated by nearly 1000 into the two wings of ‘West Pakistan’ and ‘East Pakistan’.  East Pakistan seceded from Pakistan in December 1971 to what is now Bangladesh.  

Notwithstanding its religious antecedents, Mohammad Ali Jinnah the founder and the first Governor-General of Pakistan, himself an English lawyer, remained committed to establishing a liberal, democratic State.  A firm believer in human equality and dignity, religious based discrimination had no place in Jinnah’s dictionary.  In his address to the First Constituent Assembly, on 11 August 1947, Jinnah famously stated “…You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State . . . We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State”.  Jinnah practiced what he professed: Jinnah appointed in his first cabinet a Dalit or untouchable Hindu, Jogendra Nath Mandal as Law Minister and Chaudry Zafar-Ullah Khan, an Ahmadi as foreign minister.

Fast-forward this to 2020: Pakistan, regrettably is a State where discrimination and persecution of religious minorities is written in law and is widely practiced. Within the State institutions, at the societal level, and in the media, minorities are targeted and victimised often with complete impunity.  Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis are persecuted and discriminated against heavily: there are not equal citizens, and as the poorest and most vulnerable they are denied opportunities and thus remain largely excluded from higher education and their representation at the higher echelons of government, bureaucracy and judiciary remains negligible: State advertised positions for the most lowly  jobs such as sanitary workers are regularly retained exclusively for non-Muslims; Muslims would not do such menial jobs and Christians and Hindus are treated as filthy, unclean and unacceptable and therefore ostracised from the Muslim colonies and frequently dumped into slums or deprived areas.  

Each year approximately 1000 Christian and Hindu girls (and the numbers can be higher) are abducted, forcibly converted and forcibly married, often to older married men, who use them for sexual gratification and these girls frequently are abandoned or forced into sexual slavery.  Remedial efforts such as the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill 2016 – which criminalised forcibly converting a minor – could not become law, because of opposition from religious lobbies.  Similarly, a Bill the Child Marriage (Restraint) Amendment Bill 2019 – that aimed to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 remains stalled in the National Assembly.

Religious minorities also suffer worst from of violations through the application of the Blasphemy laws and other laws in the criminal justice system.  Aasia Bibi remained in prison for nearly 10 years, charged and convicted to a death sentence for contravening the provisions of S.295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.  Her eventual acquittal by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in October 2018, nevertheless highlighted this law’s draconian nature as a strict liability offence and disproportionate punishment dispensing mandatory death sentence.  Blasphemy laws are a tool to abuse religious minorities (and indeed other human rights defenders) for even an accusation of blasphemy could trigger mob violence and brutality against the alleged blasphemer – in its 2018 Judgement, the Supreme Court noted that 62 persons have been murders by angry mobs.  Currently at least 17 people are on death row convicted of blasphemy offences, and many others are serving life sentences for related offences.  More broadly, Pakistan retains and continues to implement the death penalty for offences which under international law are not regarded ‘as most serious crimes’. A country with one of the world largest death row numbers, around 8000 persons including children (including children from religious or ethnic minority backgrounds) and with rampant corruption in the criminal justice machinery, there is an urgency to introduce a moratorium on all executions.

In October 2018, a number of Parliamentarians from the APPG for Pakistani Minorities visited Pakistan and during this brief but intensive and important visit came across many of the issues and challenges faced by minorities.  The details of the parliamentary visit are now available in the APPG’s detailed report:

https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org/media/190918-Full-Report-Religious-Minorities-of-Pakistan-Report-of-a-Parliamentary-Visit.pdf

The report highlights the aforementioned concerns, alongside many others such as the absence of the National Commission for Minorities, the non-implementation of appropriate quotas in employment and education, a political system that systematically excludes minority representation as citizens of Pakistan, physical violence, hate speech or attacks on Minorities places of worship as well as the systematic institutionalisation of discrimination and persecution of religious minorities in their public and private life.

To conclude, the UK has historic, commonwealth ties with Pakistan: it is home to over 1 million Pakistanis, British-Pakistanis representing the second-largest ethnic minority population in the UK.  Furthermore, as the largest donor of bi-lateral foreign aid as a strategic priority, the UK has claimed significant interest in promoting human rights, democracy and rule of law in Pakistan. 

In this context, ignoring serious human rights violations and continued support for some of the worst human rights abusers regrettably provides credence to those critics who point out to double-standards in our foreign policy and diplomatic engagement.

I recommend that the British government should make explicit in all its businesses with Pakistan the importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief and protection of minority rights.  

The government also needs to track and audit its current funding and investment streams in relevant departments, including Department for International Trade and Development (DfID) to ensure that these are not being channelled, directly or indirectly to Pakistani government departments or to individuals who do not support and demonstrate a clear commitment to uphold minority rights.  

Indeed, on certain issues, the violations are so serious – such as the forced conversions, forced marriages and the refusal to establish an independent minorities commission that future UK aid should be linked to appropriate changes both in law and in practice.  

UK government also need to engage in a serious bi-lateral human rights dialogue asking Pakistan to accept international human rights obligations, including ratification of human rights treaties and their full domestic implementation and full and unhindered access to the various UN Special procedure mandate-holders.

Pakistan, a nuclear State, the fifth most populous country in the world with over 220 million inhabitants is at cross-roads: religious intolerance, radicalisation and continued violations of minority rights undoubtedly violates principles of rule of law and constitutionalism but are destabilising global peace and security of which there are ample warnings: from the July 2005 London bombers trainings in Pakistan, to Osama Bin Laden’s Long sojourn and killing in Pakistan in May 2011 to the current Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan calling Osama Bin Laden ‘a martyr’ in Pakistan’s national assembly on 26 June 2020.

Professor Javaid Rehman

6 July 2020.