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:

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.

The UK House of Lords to Consider the Situation in Ethiopia

The following Private Notice Question will be considered later today:

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the war in the Ethiopian province of Tigray and what action it is taking to coordinate international action to prevent further conflict.  To be answered by Baroness Sugg (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office).

The Coalition for Genocide Response is deeply concerned at reports suggesting that atrocity crimes are underway in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

End of August 2020, Genocide Watch issued a genocide warning for Ethiopia ‘due to the government’s inaction to stop ethnically motivated violence between Oromo, Amhara, Tigrayan and Gedeo peoples.’
In October 2020, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, US Holocaust Memorial Museum warned about the high risk of further atrocities: ‘The multiple conflicts currently roiling Ethiopia and the willingness of antagonists to use violence against civilian populations indicates a risk of further atrocities. As more separatist actors and armed groups take advantage of unrest spreading to further regions of Ethiopia, state security could again target civilians. Leaders in the Tigray region have already defied the central government by conducting regional elections in advance of the delayed national elections, now slated for 2021. The armed youth-led mobs who targeted and killed Oromo and Amhara community members in July have not faced justice. Resentment directed at the Abiy administration from the Oromo opposition is only growing.’

On 20 November 2020, UNHCR reported that ‘the numbers of people fleeing Ethiopia’s Tigray region for eastern Sudan now exceed 33,000.’ (Read the full report here:

On 22 November 2020, The Sunday Telegraph warned that Ethiopia ‘may be on the edge of genocide.’ 

While the atrocities are yet to be analysed against the legal definition of genocide, the above reports are highly concerning.

The Coalition for Genocide Response would like to draw your attention to the duty to prevent genocide under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The International Court of Justice confirmed that ‘a State’s obligation to prevent, and the corresponding duty to act, arise 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. 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.’ [emphsis added]

In order for the UK Government to fulfil its duties under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the UK must assess the risk of genocide and act upon.

In 2011, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, in cooperation with the Office of the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide developed the Compilation of Risk Factors and Legal Norms for the Prevention of Genocide (the Compilation). The Compilation identifies 22 risk factors specific to genocide under two sub-groups: 1) discrimination-related risk factors, and 2) risk factors related to violations of the right to life and personal integrity.

These should be used to help to assess the situation and inform the UK Government’s response.

The Question of Mass Atrocity Monitoring and Determination

There are, at least, two states which currently stand accused of playing a role in genocide against religious minority groups; Myanmar, where the military stands accused of perpetrating genocide against the Rohingya Muslims and China whose government is allegedly perpetrating genocide against the Uighur Muslims. In both cases, the allegations are disputed by their respective governments and it is correct to say that the allegations are yet to be proven. Such a (final) legal determination needs to be made by an independent tribunal. This may take years. Yet, in the meantime, the nature of the atrocities roam the grey space as states do little to make their interim determinations of genocide to inform their responses. The question is then how do states fulfil their duties under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to prevent and suppress genocide and punish the perpetrators. Specifically, how do states fulfil their duty to prevent that, according to the International Court of Justice, should be triggered ‘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.’ 

Speakers include: 

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Peer at the UK House of Lords, Patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response 

Nadine Maenza, Advocate for International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Commissioner

Aarif Abraham, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers 

Erin Farrell Rosenberg, Senior Advisor, Ferencz International Justice Initiative at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide

The Persecution Of The Uyghur Muslims In China – Where To Go To From Now? (Side event to the FoRB Ministerial)

On 16 November 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Uyghurs and the Coalition for Genocide Response organised a webinar on the situation of Uyghurs and the needed responses.

Speakers included:

Alistair Carmichael MP, Member of the UK House of Commons, Co-chair of the APPG on Uyghurs

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Peer at the UK House of Lords, Patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, British barrister and former prosecutor at the ICTY

Nury A. Turkel, American Attorney and USCIRF Commissioner

Erin Farrell Rosenberg, Senior Advisor, Ferencz International Justice Initiative at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

Watch it here: