The Coalition for Genocide Response Joins the Freedom United ‘Free Uyghurs’ Campaign

The Coalition for Genocide Response has joined the Freedom United ‘Free Uyghurs’ Campaign. The ‘Free Uyghurs’ Campaign raises the issue of forced labour of Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim-majority ethnic groups.

As Freedom United reports:

“Since 2017, the Chinese government has detained over one million Uyghurs and other people from Turkic and Muslim-majority groups in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Northwest China.

In factories and detention camps, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui and others work under constant surveillance and cannot leave. They are forced to undergo “ideological training” to abandon their religion and culture. There have also been reports of torture. 

The Chinese government’s use of forced labor as part of an effort to forcibly assimilate an ethnic group and eliminate a culture and religion sets it apart from more common forms of forced labor. 

This system of forced labor has also become a significant part of the Chinese economy, and countless Western companies are also profiting from it. 

The Chinese government has defended the camps as voluntary “vocational training centers” that serve to provide professional opportunities and eliminate extremism. But evidence is mounting that reveals this system of modern slavery for what it is.”

Join us in calling on the Chinese government to end the persecution and exploitation of people belonging to the Uyghur and other marginalized ethnic groups through the use of forced labor.

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The World Is Marking The International Day Of Commemoration And Dignity Of The Victims Of Genocide

December 9 marks the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. It is a day established by the U.N. General Assembly to raise awareness of genocide and the role the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) plays in addressing it. December 9 was an obvious choice, since, in 1948, on the same day, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Genocide Convention. The Genocide Convention was the first document that defined genocide and imposed obligations on states to prevent genocide and punish the perpetrators. 

Read the remarks of our co-founder, Ewelina Ochab, here: The World Is Marking The International Day Of Commemoration And Dignity Of The Victims Of Genocide

Rwandan Lessons for UN Genocide Memorial Day 2019

By Katharine Thane; Kigali, Rwanda. (Senior Researcher & Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief)

“Please be an ambassador to your country and tell them what you have heard so that what happened here can never happen anywhere else.” This was the message of Frederique, a perpetrator of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He spoke to us from Mayange, Bugasera region; the best example of a reconciliation ‘Millenium village’ in Rwanda. Here, 54 families made up of perpetrators, victims and Tutsi returnees live side-by-side.

A church is Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial. Circa 4,000 thought they would be safe in it but the doors were locked, grenades thrown in, then the militia group with guns entered. Only 7 survived. Photo credit: Katharine Thane.

It took 11 years (in 2005) for the village to become feasible after the genocide. It was nearly impossible at the beginning for victims and perpetrators to trust each other. How would victims trust those who knowingly killed their relatives, especially with many of the perpetrators languishing in jail until today, unwilling to acknowledge their crimes? Over time, reconciliation did start to happen, however. Key to this in Mayange was a pastor and priest, one of which had been a victim himself. Both together taught about the need for forgiveness to heal and facilitated truth-telling between village members. A crucial part of this truth was for victims to directly learn where their relatives’ bodies had been placed by the perpetrators so as to be able to move on from hatred.

Unspeakable violence occurred during the genocide to all Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were attacked. Much of the justification for the arbitrary attack was based on arbitrary facial feature differences that colonial leaders exacerbated in the 1930s. The national memorial at Nyamata where you can descend into the mass grave of some 45,000 people their remains and some of their clothing is a particularly poignant warning of how exacerbation of differences through propaganda, hate speech and violence at the hands of neighbours can render unimaginable trauma for generations to come.

The younger generations are less able to feel the intensity of the genocide than their parents but the impact is still with them. Reconciliation is far from fully complete even with the eradication of individuals’ ethnic tribe from their ID cards. The fragility of the underlying situation is somewhat masked by the amazing amount of aid money that has been pumped into Rwanda since the genocide. How much Rwandans are able to criticize the current government and seek change to the remaining tensions is also unclear and perhaps a larger barrier than known to many in the international community to the full healing that many in the country seek.

Mayange village is a small but critical example of what can be achieved after the most inhumane of times. From my work, I have major questions about what is similarly being done in other countries such as Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and Myanmar where the need for an immediate focus on reconciliation is critical now even while the crisis continues to unfold. Reconciliation is the hardest of all violence stages and often left to one side when the need to ‘fire-fight’ is also great.

I implore those working on the targeting of minority groups in those countries above as well as the UN Office for the Prevention of Genocide which is overseeing the implementation of the UN Secretary General’s Hate Speech Action Plan this Genocide Memorial Day to support concrete long-term systematic efforts for reconciliation in the places where genocide is, has and may be about to take place.

Lord Alton Visiting A Genocide Site In Simile, Northern Iraq

Earlier today, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Patron of the Coalition for Genocide Response, visited Simile in Northern Iraq. This is how he describes his visit:

I was in Simile today – a place where ancestors of ISIS cut the throats of up to 3,000 men, women, and children. No memorial has ever been erected to these Assyrian Christians and the site of their bloody end is shamefully littered with garbage and rubbish. Historians are uncertain whether corpses were taken away to a mass grave but you can still see evidence of fragments of bone protruding from broken walls of what was once a police station. Dindar William of the Assyrian Democratic Movement accompanied me on my visit and said that “the desecration of the site is deliberate, adding insult to injury.”

Lord Alton visiting Simile in Northern Iraq.

At the time, the British authorities rejected calls for an international inquiry into the killings, cravenly arguing that it might lead to further massacres against Christians. They did not support calls to punish the offenders as they had become national heroes.

The Simile Genocide of 1933 was preceded by demonstrations in the city of Mosul where frenzied mobs decorated the city with melons pierced with daggers, symbolising the heads of murdered Assyrians. Even Iraq’s Crown Prince came to encourage the bloodletting. 

Fast forward 81 years to Mosul 2014. This is when ISIS took Mosul, daubed in red the homes of Christians with N (Nazarene) and the homes of Shia Muslims with R (Rafidah – Reject). Refusal to convert or to yield to extortion led to confiscation, forced conversion, exile or worse.

I met two men whose families fled from Mosul and another whose home was burnt down in Sinjar. No one from the international community or the Governments in Baghdad or Erbil has ever asked to meet them or to take their statements. Yet we are endlessly told we are “collecting evidence” and that perpetrators will “be brought to justice.”

Standing in the ruins of Simile, and listening later to the heirs of those silenced victims, is a challenging rebuke to our generation who have done little better than the British authorities of 1933. Little wonder that never again happens all over again.

The International Criminal Court Authorises Investigation Into Myanmar

On 15th November 2019, the International Criminal Court (the ICC) authorised the commencement of the investigation into the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar for the alleged crimes of deportation, persecution, and any other crime within the ICC jurisdiction committed against the Rohingya people or others in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

The decision comes days after the Gambia initiated proceedings against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (the ICJ). 

The Coalition for Genocide Response welcomes the decision as an important step towards justice for the victims and survivors and will continue observing the progress in the case.

The decision to authorise investigation can be found here:

More information on the ICC’s work on the case:

See also:

Forbes article on the situation of the Rohingya Muslims: ‘I Was Lucky, I Was Only Raped By Three Men’ Says A Survivor Of Myanmar Genocide

The Gambia Is Taking Myanmar To Court

The Coalition for Genocide Response welcomes the Gambia’s steps in initiating proceedings against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice. Such a pro-active approach to addressing genocidal atrocities must be commended and supported by other states. For more information on the Gambia’s initiative, read our co-founder’s commentary in Forbes

On 11th November 2019, The Gambia initiated proceedings against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (the ICJ).  The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The main aim of the ICJ is to peacefully settle disputes between States and to issue advisory legal opinions in response to requests submitted by the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Security Council, other competent organs and specialised agencies. The ICJ hears legal disputes relating to international law and provides authoritative judgments. The ICJ can also adjudicate on matters under (Articles VIII and IX of) the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Convention on Genocide). 

To read see: The Gambia Is Taking Myanmar To Court

As Brexit Continues To Divide Britain, A New Genocide Response Initiative Aims To Unite

This article was first published on here.

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

As British Parliament concludes one of its shortest sessions in the history (the sessions began on October 14), and Parliamentarians prepare to run for office again, many important issues are pushed aside for the only topic that matters at the moment – Brexit. However, there are some exceptions to this concerning trend. 

On November 4, 2019, a few British Parliamentarians and experts have launched a new venture to address the issue of genocide. The Coalition for Genocide Response is a new initiative that aims to unite politicians, scholars, and civil society representatives in the common aim to provide a comprehensive response to genocide. The Coalition for Genocide Response wants to unite all to ensure that the promise of Never Again has meaning at last.

Damage in Sinjar, Iraq after liberation from Daesh
One of many mass graves in Sinjar, Iraq, where thousands of Yazidis were executed and buried by … [+]NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES

During the launch, several speakers expressed their support for the initiative and its urgent need in light of the state’s failures to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, both in the U.K. and globally. Among others, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a renowned British barrister, discussed the inadequacies of the current international system in its prevention, suppression and punishment of mass atrocities. He further commended the latest legislative attempt to address the issue of genocide, the Genocide Determination Bill, a bill tabled by Lord Alton of Liverpool, a peer at the House of Lord. While the bill cannot proceed until the new session of Parliament begins, the event provided an opportunity to discuss it and consider how best to support it in the future. Today In: Business

Both initiatives, the Coalition for Genocide Response and the Genocide Determination Bill are a breath of fresh air for the subject of genocide response and may be the catalyst to trigger renewed action. 

As recent years have been dominated by shocking violence and bloodshed, the concept of preventing international crimes like genocide (or crimes against humanity and war crimes) seems to have been lost and forgotten. In the last five years alone, we have seen two clear cases of genocide; one perpetrated by Daesh against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, the second perpetrated by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In both cases, the U.K., and other states, have done little to prevent the crime and punish the perpetrators. Apart from these two high profile cases, there are several other situations around the world where red-flags are identifiable. Places where the atrocities may escalate and pose a threat of genocide. 

The U.K. has, to say at least, an inadequate record on responding to mass atrocities. This, despite its powerful position as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and as champion of some important initiatives on responding to atrocities (to include pioneering initiatives to establish mechanisms to collect evidence of mass atrocities perpetrated by Daesh in Iraq, namely, the Investigative Team established by the U.N. Security Council resolution 2379). Nonetheless, as the U.K. has been very selective in its response to international crimes, it has been criticized for aligning its response to such atrocities with its own interests. Some recent examples of its failure to address such atrocities include its response to the situation in Syria, Yemen or Myanmar. 

Other states, including the U.S., have introduced much more effective strategies to address genocide. For example, in 2011, President Obama issued Presidential Study Directive 10 and approved several steps to strengthen the ability to predict, prevent and address mass atrocities, including genocide. Presidential Study Directive 10 was followed by the establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board, a mechanism engaged with monitoring and response to potential atrocity risks. The U.S. continues this work and is preparing a global conference on the topic in 2020. 

There are lessons to be learned from the failures of states and international communities to prevent international crimes. Prevention of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes should lie at the heart of the foreign policy of every state. This is the only way to effectively protect people from the destructive force that such atrocities carry. Responding to genocide and other international crimes once they occur cannot achieve much as the ultimate damage is already done and people have paid the ultimate price. In the words of a late British Parliamentarian Jo Cox: “We must now ensure that Governments the world over deliver on their promises on preventing genocide and other crimes against humanity. Never again can we let innocents suffer as they did in the Holocaust. Never again.”

Responding to such atrocities, while it can provide some assistance to those affected, will not bring back lives that have been lost or heal the injuries. Prevention is the only way. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

David Alton and Luke de Pulford: Britain must lead the world towards tougher action against genocide

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Luke de Pulford is a member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and the Co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response. Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Crossbench Peer, is a Patron of the Coalition and sponsor of the Genocide Prevention Bill which recently received its First Reading in Parliament.

Last Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a historic resolution naming the murder of 1.3 million Armenians as a genocide.

It was historic in more ways than one. These killings, at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, occurred in 1915, and it’s taken 114 years to name this as the crime above all crimes – something that the UK, still failing to stand up to Turkish bullying, has signally failed to do.

But the real importance of the US decision is not historic, it’s contemporary.

On Monday a new Coalition for Genocide Response is being launched in Parliament to ensure that new genocides – like those against Yazidis and Christians in Iraq and Syria, Rohingya in Burma, or Uighurs in China, won’t have to wait a hundred years before a genocide is named.

Why does the name matter?

Because the 1948 Convention on Genocide lays on its signatories – including the UK – the duty to prevent, to protect, and then to bring to justice those responsible. It’s exactly to avoid having to do these things that governments of all shades have refused to describe atrocious crimes as acts of genocide.

That’s why a Bill was recently laid before Parliament to take away the decision from politicians and to put it into the hands of the High Court. Judges can then look at the evidence and make a preliminary declaration if they believe that a genocide is being committed.

Adama Dieng, the UN’s Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, puts it well when he says “Genocide is a process. The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers. It started with hate speech.”

Genocide requires planning, it requires preparation, it requires organisation, and above it all, it requires our ignorance of the red flags.

The consequences of our ignorance and our failure to act can be vividly seen at the Genocide Museum in Yerevan; at Israel’s Yad Vashem, where one of us stood just a few days ago; and at the genocide sites in Rwanda. What they have in common is that holocaust and genocide doesn’t happen overnight.

Professor Gregory Stanton of Mason University conducted research into the various stages of genocide and suggests ten that lead to the annihilation of peoples, ethnicities, faiths, and vulnerable minorities. These ten steps to a living hell are certainly useful analytical tools in explaining how infamous episodes of our tainted history have unfolded.

Studying these ten steps helps to distinguish situations that are escalating into mass atrocities. But the exercise is rendered worthless unless there are commensurate steps to fulfil the Genocide Convention’s triple duties of preventing, protecting, and punishing.

To have a better chance of preventing future infamies, we need to be canaries in the mine – always looking for the poisonous gases that lead to the mass graves and grievous obscenities of Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Iraq and Syria, and to the hideous camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen Belsen and the rest. And we need to have the ability to name this crime – the crime above all crimes – for what it is.

Take the situation in which Uighur Muslims in Western China now find themselves. At Monday’s launch of the Coalition for Genocide Response we will hear a first-hand account of what is underway in Xinjiang.

We will hear how an estimated one million Uighurs have been detained in camps to be “re-educated,” brainwashed, intimidated, and reprogrammed. In reality, the camps are far removed from any concept of education and operate like prisons.

As you consider the following, apply Professor Stanton’s ten steps to genocide. In a letter sent to Terry Branstad, the US Ambassador to China, by Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Chris Smith, they say:

“Thousands are being held for months at a time and subjected to political indoctrination sessions. Many have reportedly been detained for praying, wearing “Islamic” clothing, or having foreign connections, such as previous travel abroad or relatives living in another country. Reports have emerged of the deaths of detainees… there are reports that torture and other human rights abuses are occurring in overcrowded centers secured by guard towers, barbed wire, and high walls.”

What is afoot is undoubtedly in breach of Article II of the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Other acts, including ‘Killing members of the group’ and ‘Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group’ also apply.

And using the Stanton Index there also are other indicators of genocide. Uighur DNA is being taken in the camps. This has happened to Falun Gong practitioners, whose organs have been forcibly and lethally harvested.

And as well as disrespecting the living even the dead are disrespected.

In 1984 George Orwell wrote that: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history”. To destroy the Uighur’s history and identity over 40 Uighur cemeteries have recently been destroyed, with bones and ancestors’ remains scattered.

And we know who have questions to answer. Men like:

  • Chen Quanguo: Secretary of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the first secretary of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, the first political commissar.
  • Wang Junzheng: Secretary of the Political and Legal Committee of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
  • Wang Jiang: who is currently the Party Secretary and Deputy Director of the Judicial Department of Xinjiang

One day, those responsible must be brought to justice.

In the short term, Magnitsky powers –promised by the Government in the recent Queens Speech – should be used to target the overseas assets of those believed to be responsible for egregious violations of human rights, paving the way for crimes against humanity and genocide.

At Monday’s launch Dr Enver Tohti, a former cancer surgeon from Xinjiang, will say why he believes a genocide against his Uighur people is underway. He has previously testified in the British, Irish, and European Parliaments about the forcible removal of organs, and says China continues to carry out illicit organ-harvesting.

In Xinjiang, he has presented evidence that China is acquiring mass collection of DNA from individuals not suspected of any crime through mandatory health examinations that include DNA collection, for ulterior purposes, and high rates of cancer among Uighur patients after their exposure thermonuclear blasts.

In 1997, Dr Tohti leaked his findings to a team of western journalists and an undercover documentary film about the nuclear tests was made in 1998: “Death on the Silk Road”. The documentary was broadcast in over 80 TV channels, including in Japan and on Channel 4 in the UK. As a result, he was forced to leave Xinjiang and was granted refugee status in the UK in 1999.

Dr Tothi says: “the world must wake up to the realities of the Genocide underway against the Uighurs. Unlike the Armenians it mustn’t take a hundred years before we name it for what it is.”

The Coalition will be launched at Westminster on Monday November 4th at 4.00pm in Committee Room 2A of the House of Lords. The Patrons include Baroness Helena Kenned QC, Justice Michael Kirby and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC.

Major new coalition launched in parliament to confront contemporary genocide

On Monday, 4th November, the Coalition for Genocide Response was launched in Parliament. The purpose of the Coalition is to bring renewed energy and innovation to address an urgent human rights crisis: the failure of the international community to prevent, suppress and punish mass atrocity crimes. 

The Coalition’s Patrons include Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Justice Michael Kirby, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Professor Gregory Stanton and Lord Alton of Liverpool. Supporting organisations already include Oxford Human Rights Hub, International State Crime Initiative, Yazda, Genocide80Twenty, Genocide Watch, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) and the European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. 

Speakers at the launch included Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Wael Aleji, of the Syriac National Council in Syria, Dr Enver Tohti representing Uyghur Aid, Lord Alton, and the founders of the Coalition, Ewelina Ochab and Luke de Pulford. 

Reflecting on last week’s decision by the U.S. House of Representatives to name the killing of 1.3 million Armenians as a Genocide Dr Tohti, a former cancer surgeon from Xinjiang province in China, and who is a Uighur, said “the world must wake up to the realities of the Genocide underway against the Uighurs. Unlike the Armenians, it mustn’t take a hundred years before we name it for what it is.”

Welcoming the launch of the Coalition for Genocide Response, one of its Patrons, (Baroness) Helena Kennedy QC, said: “Genocide always starts with hatred and demonisation on the “Other”. Such dehumanising invariably leads on to discrimination, rape and other violence but if steps are not taken it can end in mass murder. We know these are the steps towards extermination yet the world has failed to invoke international law In the face of horrifying wrongs in current events This Coalition is the call out for Justice and Action.”

Dr Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, said: “The Coalition for Genocide Response is needed now more than ever. As Darfur, ISIS, Syria, and Myanmar have shown, we are far from stopping genocide. Human Rights NGO’s, governments, international organizations, humanitarian and religious groups must get out of their stovepipes and combine our efforts to prevent genocide.”

Background to the Speakers:

Wael Aleji, is a British citizen of Syrian origin; part of the Syrian opposition; and a former member of the Syrian National Council, the first political body to represent the opposition following the uprising of 2011. He spoke about the continuing risks of genocide to minorities in NE Syria, the evidence and mass graves of Iraq, and the role of State actors such as Turkey, and genocidal militias such as ISIS. 

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC was a prosecutor at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Croats. He recently chaired the Independent Tribunal into forcible organ harvesting in China. He spoke about the insufficiency of the current international system to prevent, suppress and punish mass atrocities;-the need for a new organisation to campaign for new ways for states to honour their obligations under the Genocide Convention; and the purpose and benefits of the new Genocide Prevention Bill which recently received its First Reading in Parliament.

Ewelina Ochab is a Legal Researcher, Author of Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East and ‘Religious Freedom’ in Christianity in North Africa and West Asia, and with Pieter Omtzigt, ‘Bringing Daesh to Justice: What the International Community Can Do’ Journal of Genocide Research. She spoke on our failure to prevent, protect, or punish and why we need a new institution to breathe new life into the 1948 Convention on Genocide. 

Luke de Pulford, is a member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Director of the Arise Foundation, Parliamentary Director of recent campaigns in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong and Genocide against Yazidis and other minorities in Northern Iraq.

With Ewelina Ochab, he is Founder of The Coalition for Genocide Response and spoke on why the Coalition is needed and how it will work. 

The event was chaired by David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool), a Crossbench Peer, a Patron of the Coalition and sponsor of the Genocide Prevention Bill, which recently received its First Reading in the House of Lords

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Nadia Murad’s vow to take ISIS to court, and her heartbreaking return home

She wore a scarf in our first interview because she did not want you to know her. She was a humble 21-year-old from a poor farm family. Her dream was to own a hair salon in her village of nearly 2,000 but, that was before the massacre. She didn’t want to be on “60 Minutes.” But she needed the world to know what ISIS did. The murder, the rape, the genocide of her people. Five years ago, in Iraq, we discovered this hesitant, frightened, woman. We did not imagine her scarf concealed not only her identity but also a fierce invincibility which would lead her, four years after our interview, to the highest honor the world has to give.

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