The Government’s Latest Replies On Bringing To Justice Those Responsible for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity ; Report of Seminar in Parliament on The Question of Genocide Determination; And Recent Parliamentary Interventions on Syria and Iraq  


 

1.The Government’s Latest Replies On Bringing To Justice Those Responsible for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity ; 2 Seminar in Parliament on The Question of Genocide Determination; 3. Recent Parliamentary Interventions

Also see Ewelina Ochab:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/04/27/known-genocidaires-and-daesh-foreign-fighters-avoid-prosecutions-in-the-uk/#727a6c1fa76c

And this link to Gregory Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/tenstagesofgenocide.html  and Ewelina Ochab on prevention of genocide: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2017/09/02/can-genocide-ever-be-prevented/#65048bb761be

This link to the translation and analysis of the Dutch Government’s opinion: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/01/netherlands-joins-un-security-council-shine-light-genocide/ original: https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/brieven_regering/detail?id=2017Z18889&did=2017D38861) 

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1.The Government’s Latest Replies On Bringing To Justice Those Responsible for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6962):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the testimony of Rita Habib, a Christian Iraqi woman, published in The Times on 16 April, who was held for three years as a slave by Isis and suffered repeated sexual violence, that her owners included an Iraqi, Saudi Arabians and a Syrian man; and what assistance they are giving to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. (HL6962)

Tabled on: 17 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The testimony of Rita Habib contained appalling reports of human rights abuses and violations, perpetrated against her by members of Daesh. The UK condemns all such atrocities committed. We welcome the commitments of Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi to protect all Iraqi citizens and to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses and violations and to hold those responsible to account. We will continue to make clear that we expect the Government of Iraq to act on that commitment. We are working with our international partners and the Government of Iraq to ensure that Daesh is held to account for its appalling crimes, including against Christians. The Investigative Team established under UN Security Council Resolution 2379 will gather evidence of Daesh crimes, beginning in Iraq, and the UK has committed £1 million to the establishment of this team. In March I visited Iraq and launched the UK’s Fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, encouraging efforts to hold Daesh to account for its crimes, build support for survivors of sexual violence and end the stigma attached to victims of those crimes. In Syria, over £1.3 million has been allocated through our Conflict, Security and Stabilisation Fund to support work which collects and documents evidence of war crimes; and builds capacity to investigate sexual and gender based violence cases.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 12:36.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6960):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they are giving to the establishment of a Regional Tribunal to bring to trial those responsible for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity in Syria modelled on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. (HL6960)

Tabled on: 17 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

​The UK strongly supports efforts to pursue accountability for war crimes in Syria. In December 2016, the UK co-sponsored the General Assembly resolution which established the new UN International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria. Future prosecutions could be through a referral to the International Criminal Court or by hybrid, specialised or national courts.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 12:32.

 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7036):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the view expressed by the then Prime Minister in 2016, speaking about events in Syria and northern Iraq, that “there is a very strong case here for saying that it is genocide, and I hope that it will be portrayed and spoken of as such”, what assessment they have made of the extent to which actions taken in those areas constitute genocide. (HL7036)

Tabled on: 18 April 2018

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for ensuring that the perpetrators of crimes such as gross violations of human rights, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity face the prospect of being held to account, and that any final settlement does not include amnesties, in order to deter future genocides and crimes against humanity. (HL7037)
    Tabled on: 18 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

It is UK policy that any determination on whether genocide has occurred is a matter for competent judicial bodies, rather than for governments. The UK is fully committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes. We continue to voice our support for this principle, and continue to support the work of the International Criminal Court and the international tribunals to tackle impunity for these crimes.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:19.

Lord Keen of Elie, the Attorney General’s Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6857):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in cases blocked by the UK Courts’ extradition of alleged genocidaires to the countries requesting their extradition in order to prosecute them there, whether there has been any consideration of prosecuting those alleged genocidaires in the UK on charges of genocide under the principle of universal jurisdiction; if so, what were the challenges; and what has been done to overcome them. (HL6857)

Tabled on: 16 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Keen of Elie:

Before a prosecution can take place, there has to be a police investigation. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has no powers to investigate allegations of crime. The war crimes team of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) is responsible for the investigation of all allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture. They decide whether an investigation is required and how it should be conducted. SO15 received a request from Rwandan authorities in January 2018 to investigate five individuals in the UK in relation to alleged genocide offences in Rwanda dating from around 1994. SO15 has not launched an investigation as it is currently assessing material provided from Rwandan authorities to determine whether it will be possible to carry out further scoping of the allegations.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:18.

Lord Keen of Elie, the Attorney General’s Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6854):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many times the Crown Prosecution Service has used (1) the International Criminal Court Act 2001, and (2) the Coroner’s and Justice Act 2009, on the basis of universal jurisdiction; what were those cases; and what were the offences the individuals were charged and convicted for. (HL6854)

Tabled on: 16 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Keen of Elie:

The Crown Prosecution Service has to date not prosecuted any individual on the basis of universal jurisdiction for offences contrary to the International Criminal Court Act 2001 and the Coroner’s and Justice Act 2009.

There have been a small number of prosecutions for international crimes by the CPS, including those of Anthony Sawonuik who was convicted of war crimes from World War II and Faryadi Sarwar Zardad who was convicted of torture and hostage taking as a result of offences committed in Afghanistan.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:08.

Lord Keen of Elie, the Attorney General’s Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL6855):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many times the Crown Prosecution Service has charged individuals with the crime of genocide; and how many convictions were ultimately secured. (HL6855)

Tabled on: 16 April 2018

Answer:
Lord Keen of Elie:

The Crown Prosecution Service has to date not charged any individual with the crime of genocide.

There have been a small number of prosecutions for international crimes by the CPS, including those of Anthony Sawonuik who was convicted of war crimes from World War II and Faryadi Sarwar Zardad who was convicted of torture and hostage taking as a result of offences committed in Afghanistan.

Date and time of answer: 30 Apr 2018 at 17:08.

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2 Seminar in Parliament on The Question of Genocide Determination

 

Summary of the Parliamentary Event on 20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, Lord (David) Alton of Liverpool and Fiona Bruce MP hosted an event at the House of Lords on ‘The Question of Genocide Determination.’ The speakers included Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Barrister and Professor of Law; and Dr Adrian Gallagher, Professor at Leeds University and Research Director at the ECR2P.  The attendees have also heard from three remote speakers, Dr Pieter Omtzigt, Member of the Dutch Parliament and Special Rapporteur on Bringing Daesh to Justice; Lars Adaktusson, Swedish MEP; and Dr Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. The event was co-organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Prevention of Genocide & Crimes Against Humanity in cooperation with Ewelina Ochab, human rights advocate and researcher.

During the event, the speakers scrutinised a bill on genocide determination (the Genocide Determination Bill) tabled by both parliamentarians and considered the UK Government’s failure to recognise mass atrocities as genocide. Indeed, the UK Government has a long-standing tradition to leave the question of genocide to the ‘international judicial system.’ To address this issue, the tabled Genocide Determination Bill identifies the High Court of England and Wales to make a preliminary finding on cases of alleged genocide, and for the subsequent referral by the Secretary of State of such findings to the International Criminal Court or the UN Security Council.

The Genocide Determination Bill would provide for a better response to cases of potential genocide than waiting for the ‘international judicial systems.’  Once the determination is made, further steps are likely to follow to ensure that the UK Government fulfils its duties under the UN Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Convention on Genocide).

The speakers agreed that the current approach of the UK Government that leaves the question of genocide determination to the ‘international judicial systems’, irrespective of the delay it causes or irrespective of whether there is any mechanism to consider the question, is flawed and in breach of the UK’s obligations under the Convention on Genocide. This approach cannot be justified. The speakers praised the Genocide Determination Bill for being able to address the current failure of the UK Government and to provide for a more expeditious way to respond to such mass atrocities triggering decisive steps.

The event was attended by Parliamentarians, members of civil societies, lawyers, and academics. The attendees engaged in a constrictive debate with the speakers, shared their support for the Genocide Determination Bill and shared their suggestions.

 

 

 

Summary of the presentations

Professor Geoffrey Nice QC

Professor Nice QC shared his experience of working on human rights and international criminal prosecutions for many decades. Professor Nice QC explained the importance of investigating and prosecuting international crimes. As identified by Professor Nice QC, the creation of international tribunals in relation to mass atrocities over the recent decades has established an expectation that such crimes will be prosecuted. This is something we must press for and deliver.

As presented by Professor Nice QC, there is a shortcoming of the international criminal justice process that is excusable, namely, that not every conflict can conceivably be put to a legal determination.  There are sometimes no resources, no time, or no will. However, this does not justify inaction.

On the cases of Burma and North Korea, Professor Nice QC explained the failure of the international community to act as a result of the lack of political will. Professor Nice QC stated that what the Genocide Determination Bill could do would be to remove the element of political discretion from the process of genocide determination. He indicated that once the genocide determination is made by the High Court, actions will have to follow, and inaction would not be justified anymore. Professor Nice QC further praised the Genocide Determination Bill for giving the power to individuals to request a case to be considered whether it is genocide or not rather than leaving it with politicians exclusively.

Professor Nice QC explained the legacy of Lemkin in coining the crime of genocide as a separate and different from other crimes, for example, the crimes against humanity. Professor Nice QC argued that it is vital to recognise mass atrocities as genocide and not only as crimes against humanity.

 

Dr Adrian Gallagher

Dr Gallagher indicated that there are many reasons for recognising genocide: ‘From the rights of the victims to the legal duties embodied in the Genocide Convention and the political responsibilities embodied in the 2005 Responsibility to Protect agreement.’ He further added that while the legal and moral perception is that genocide is the ‘crime of crimes’ when the political response fails to acknowledge it, this undermines the legal and moral codes of conduct that underpin international order.

Dr Gallagher stated that the question of determining genocide should be placed in the hands of legal experts and this because of several complexities surrounding the definition of genocide. One of such complexities would be to establish the specific intent required for the crime of genocide.

However, this does not mean that steps should not be made to ensure that a legal determination is made. Dr Gallagher cited the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report from December 2017 that condemned the UK Government for its response concerning the situation of the Rakhine state for a) not conducting its independent legal analysis and b) its lack of clarity and consistency in defining the violence. Dr Gallagher noted that the UK Government responded that the FCO was not a judicial authority and is not qualified to make this determination. Dr Gallagher confirmed that the Government does not have the judicial authority and legal expertise to determine when crimes such as genocide are taking place. Dr Gallagher commended that the Genocide Determination Bill could address this shortfall.

Dr Gallagher considered who was the right authority to make the genocide determination. In response to the FASC report, a Minister stated that no legal analysis had been conducted because the rightful authority was the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Dr Gallagher explained that while the UN carries a lot of political authority, this does not necessarily mean the legal authority that is required. And so, in the case of Myanmar, the UN Special Envoy on Myanmar stated that he would refrain from calling it genocide until a credible international tribunal or court had weighed the evidence.

Dr Gallagher indicated that, in his opinion, Commissions of Inquiry, as established by the UN Security Council or the UN Human Rights Council, are best placed for this type of work. Dr Gallagher cited the case of the Daesh atrocities against the Yazidis that was considered by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and concluded that the ethno-religious group was subjected to genocide by Daesh. As explained by Dr Gallagher, Canada initially resisted calling the atrocities as genocide, however, changed its position in light of the opinion of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Dr Gallagher further considered the work of the Commission of Inquiry on Darfur that was not able to conclude that genocide was being perpetrated but recommended referral of the situation to the ICC. Dr Gallagher indicated that there is a benefit in placing the determination of genocide in the hands of lawyers, namely, that the process becomes apolitical. This means that political considerations like for example the national interest would not be of concern. Nonetheless, the steps taken after the genocide determination would be still subject to political discretion.

 

Dr Pieter Omtzigt MP

Dr Pieter Omtzigt MP shared his experience of working on the issue of Daesh genocide at the Council of Europe and the Dutch Parliament. Omtzigt MP was the leading force behind the Council of Europe resolution recognising the Daesh atrocities as genocide, the first such international determination. Omtzigt MP then became the rapporteur on ‘prosecuting and punishing crimes against humanity or possible.

Omtzigt MP indicated that similarly as in the UK, the Dutch government and parliament did not want to deal with the determination of genocide leaving it for the ‘international judicial systems.’ Contrary to the UK, the Dutch government requested an opinion of experts dealing with two questions, 1) whether politicians can make the genocide determination, and 2) whether the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq amount to genocide of expert opinions on the topic. Based on the received legal advice of experts, in December 2017, the Dutch government confirmed that politicians could make the genocide determination if supported by robust inquiry and legal opinion, and that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Daesh was most likely committing genocide against religious minorities.

Omtzigt MP further raised the issue of prosecuting Daesh foreign fighters, whether by international ad hoc tribunals or the ICC. Omtzigt MP considered that despite the challenges surrounding such international prosecutions, those must be undertaken. Furthermore, as explained by Omtzigt MP, many of the so-called Daesh foreign fighters have already returned to their home countries, including over 425 British Daesh foreign fighters, but not many of them have been prosecuted for their involvement or complicity in crimes in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere. Omtzigt MP confirmed that having conducted an inquiry into the prosecution of Daesh foreign fighters in Council of Europe member states, states have been failing to prosecute Daesh foreign fighter returnees across the board.

 

Lars Adaktusson MEP

Adaktusson MEP indicated that Sweden currently joins the United Kingdom in the UN Security Council, and hence both countries, have the opportunity to pave the way for reconciliation and justice. Adaktusson MEP identified that this could be done through cooperation with the Netherlands, which is already working to make this happen, by submitting a concrete proposal to the UN Security Council seeking to establish an international tribunal where Daesh perpetrators of the genocide can be prosecuted.

Adaktusson MEP stated that during his several trips to Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East, he has met with ordinary people, displaced persons, political representatives and Christian leaders. This is also why he understands the need for a comprehensive response to the issue.

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3. Recent Parliamentary Interventions 

 

Monday, April 16, 2018 9:29:22 PM
To: ALTON OF LIVERPOOL, Lord
Subject: Today’s Statement in Parliament on Syria

 

 Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, in the snake pit of competing interests and proxy wars in Syria, it will have been of little comfort, as the noble Lord said a few moments ago, to hear the words “Mission accomplished”, certainly for the relatives of some 400,000 people who have died and the 12 million displaced in Syria. I too would welcome more from the noble Baroness about what diplomatic action we are going to take to try to bring a conclusion to this terrible conflict.

 

I would also like to return to what she said about the veto that has been used in the Security Council and the accountability to which people will be held, whether they are responsible for genocidal crimes against humanity, in the case of Daesh, or for chemical weapons being used, in the case of the Syrian regime. What are we doing to create new mechanisms, such as the establishment of a regional court, the creation of which does not need a decision to be taken by the Security Council, and which could be established by the United States, France, the UK and our allies so that those who have been responsible for these depredations will be brought to justice? Surely what marks us out from people like Assad or, for that matter, Daesh, is our belief in the upholding of the rule of law.

 

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park

 

I entirely agree with the noble Lord’s sentiment. Russia has used its veto six times on the topic of chemical weapons use in Syria since 2017, including, as I mentioned, the recent veto of the draft resolution which would have established an independent investigation. Of course, we have used other mechanisms. Through the EU, we have brought sanctions against those involved in the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and we will continue to try to work through international bodies to ensure that those who commit these heinous crimes are brought to justice.

 

 Maundy Thursday House of Lords Debate on Syria: A modern day Calvary ….

https://davidalton.net/2018/03/29/todays-maundy-thursday-house-of-lords-debate-on-syria-a-modern-day-calvary-why-those-who-have-slaughtered-christians-yazidis-and-other-minorities-in-an-orgy-of-genocide-must-be-held/

3.09 pm

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

 

My Lords, I begin by paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who has been a friend for more than 40 years, for securing this timely and important debate today and for the compassionate and consistent way in which he has championed the cause of the Syrian people. It is a privilege to follow so many moving and powerful speeches.

 

In September 1980, during my first visit to Syria, I met Hafiz al-Assad, the Syrian President from 1971 to 2000, and father of Bashar al-Assad. The meeting took place on the day on which the eight-year Iran-Iraq war began—a forgotten conflict that claimed the lives of more than 1 million people. 

 

Since then, through wars and proxy wars from Iraq to Yemen and through the emergence of barbaric militias and violent ideologies, the region has been convulsed and disfigured by an orgy of unspeakable violence, and those responsible have believed that they will never be held to account.

 

For eight long years now, as we have heard, Syria has been ravaged, with an estimated 500,000 fatalities, of whom 200,000 are thought to be children. In his moving remarks, the right reverend Prelate told us that we should never give up on hope. He is, of course, right. The one thing left in Pandora’s box was hope.

 

The practical situation on the ground is this. Since 2011, this war has left more than 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.5 million internally displaced and another 5 million clinging to life as refugees in camps and countries far away from their homeland, mostly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. From Aleppo to Damascus, from Eastern Ghouta and Homs to Palmyra, and now in Afrin, we have watched as internal and external forces have reduced homes, hospitals, schools and communities to rubble. In particular, we have seen appalling depredations committed by ISIS and, subsequently, hundreds of Islamic State fighters fleeing Raqqa, once the group’s de facto capital, but their dispersal does not represent defeat for an ideology that continues to preach hatred and to practise genocide.

 

As Ministers have conceded, in 2013 the United Kingdom lost its ability to shape events, with Iran rapidly filling that void, followed by Russia in 2015. With Turkey’s intervention in 2018 in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, as we heard, a further 98,000 people have been displaced. Last week, Christian Aid, in a report issued to Members of your Lordships’ House said that there have been widespread reports of arbitrary arrests, threats of violence and looting of civilian property by the Free Syrian Army—a group the United Kingdom Government have previously told us that they support.

 

The consequences for Syria have been lethal for millions of people, not least in the slaughter of the region’s minorities. On Monday, I attended the opening of a poignant exhibition being staged here in Parliament highlighting the genocide against the Yazidis, who have been subjected to nauseating obscenity and barbarism, rape, enslavement and murder. Nearly 10,000 Yazidis are believed to have been killed or captured by ISIS, with more than 3,000 Yazidi girls and women believed to be currently enslaved in Syria. Christians have also experienced a genocide that began with the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century and continues to this day.

 

The predators change but the existential threat to the minorities has not. 

 

The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo says that two-thirds of Syrian Christians have either been killed or driven away from his country. 

 

I serve as a pro bono member of the board of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, and have been deeply moved by the accounts of many who have given evidence to the charity. The suffering that they have experienced was described last night at a Passiontide Wednesday service at St Patrick’s, Soho. One of those who has given evidence told me the story of a Christian family: a mother and 12 year-old daughter which were raped by ISIS militants, leading the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. One refugee described how she witnessed ISIS crucify her husband on the door to their home.

 

On 23 July 2014, I wrote in an opinion piece in the Times that,

 

“the world must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement”.

 

But as Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar and Christians fled for their lives, the world chose not to wake up and the genocide continued. A 16 year-old Yazidi girl, Ekhlas, subsequently met parliamentarians, including myself, and described crucifixions, beheadings, systematic rape and mass graves.

 

Following the failure of your Lordships to pass an amendment laid before the House on 20 April 2016 by myself, my noble friend Lady Cox and the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws and Lady Nicholson, the House of Commons subsequently unanimously approved a Motion tabled by Fiona Bruce MP describing the existential slaughter of these minorities as a genocide and calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. It is on this question of justice—about which I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, and copied the letter to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, on Tuesday of this week—that I want to concentrate the remainder of my remarks.

 

In 2016, David Cameron said,

 

“there is a very strong case here for saying that it is genocide, and I hope that it will be portrayed and spoken of as such”.—[Official Report, Commons, 4/6/16; col. 168.]

 

However, the Foreign Office has declined to do so and refused to act on that vote. This has made us derelict in our obligations under the 1948 convention on genocide, which places on us as a signatory a duty to prevent, to protect and to punish. It is the word genocide that could have changed the fate of the nameless thousands of victims and survivors of mass atrocities in Syria and Iraq.

 

Gregory Stanton, research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University, conducted a study on the perception and effects of determining genocidal atrocities using the words of “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide”. The results of the study revealed that:

 

“It was not until the term ‘genocide’ was applied to the crimes, that force was used to stop them … When the term ‘genocide’ is used to describe crimes against humanity, use of force is possible. When the crimes are only called ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘crimes against humanity’, it is a sure indicator of lack of political will to take forceful action to stop them”.

 

“Genocide” is a word that makes so much difference. 

 

Only by recognising the mass atrocities committed as genocide will victims be able to receive an adequate level of justice. Furthermore, the recognition of genocide matters for their humanitarian assistance, justice and much more besides. 

 

The Minister will be aware of the impact that the current policies have had on issues such as, for example, asylum. Less than 1% of those allowed into the UK under the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme come from the groups that I have described as affected by genocide. Everyone affected by war suffers, but either genocide is a crime above all crimes or it is not. Labelling victims simply as “religious groups” is also, in terms of the implementation of things such as asylum policies, a form of reverse discrimination.

 

In addition to the failure to determine the ISIS atrocities perpetrated against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide, the atrocities perpetrated by other actors within the regime also have genocidal traits, such as the use of chemical weapons and the intentional starvation of the population. They are most certainly war crimes and crimes against humanity. But what links all these atrocities is a culture of impunity. Do we have the will or the capacity to hold those responsible to account and to bring them to justice? That is the central question. Genocide is the crime above all crimes, and it must be our starting point in upholding internationally agreed law and in determining our priorities in all areas of public policy.

 

The case of the ISIS genocide against these minorities is a simple one. 

 

Daesh fighters have been systematically perpetrating mass atrocities, including killing members of religious groups such as Yazidis, Christians, Shia Muslims and others, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of these groups, deliberately imposing conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part. 

 

Intent does not have to be inferred from these atrocities. Daesh has been expressing this genocidal intent through social media and in its recruitment and propaganda newsletters and videos. 

 

The crucifixion and death of one young man was boastfully posted on the internet. He was crucified for wearing a cross. From the same town local girls were taken as sex slaves. ISIS returned their body parts to the front door of their parents’ homes with a videotape of them being raped.

 

The UK Government cannot justify hiding behind the long-standing legacy of genocide denial. Ministers say, “It is clearly a matter for judicial authorities to determine whether a genocide has taken place”, and then fail to put in place a mechanism for doing that. They say, “Perpetrators will pay the price”. They have talked about “the long arm of justice” and give the example of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Bosnian men and youths were massacred. 

 

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, spoke at a colloquium on genocide which I convened in your Lordships’ House last week. As Sir Geoffrey made clear, a trial of genocide is not easy, as is clear from the case of Ratko Mladić which, for reasons I shall give, was a surprising choice for the Government to cite. 

 

What options do the Government have in seeking to justify their position for leaving genocidal determination to the international judicial system?

 

 There is the International Criminal Court but vetoes and hostility by key members of the Security Council sadly make it unlikely that the ICC would be a realistic mechanism to deal with these events.

 

Another mechanism might be something like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, whose role the Government regularly now cite. But, to be clear, the ICTY was an ad hoc tribunal with a limited jurisdiction. The court was established after a commission of experts, established by the UN Security Council, determined in its interim report that “ethnic cleanings” were perpetrated. This was before it prepared a final report confirming that genocide and other mass atrocities had been perpetrated. This determination of genocide by the commission of experts was the key to establishing the ad hoc tribunal and ensuring that the perpetrators were brought to justice. 

 

It was the interim determination by the commission of experts and not the ICTY’s final judgment that was the first and most important step towards justice. 

 

This point needs to be fully understood. If there is no special ad hoc tribunal or no existing court capable of making an adjudication, there will be no consideration of the atrocities that would result in a final judgment acceptable to the UK Government.

 

Secondly, as Gladstone once observed, justice delayed can be justice denied. 

 

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, confirmed in a reply to me last week that Mladić was arrested 16 years after he was charged and convicted only in November 2017—two decades after his genocidal atrocities had taken place. 

 

If a perpetrator is never charged with genocide, he will not be convicted of genocide, so the UK Government will not gain the final judgment necessary to make a genocidal determination.

 

 I have never argued that the UK Government should undertake the role of being a court to make the final determination. But they can make a qualified determination, subject to evidence and final judgment. 

 

It is the interim determination of genocide that can trigger further steps, as in case of the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and elsewhere. 

 

This is precisely the approach taken by the Dutch Government, now temporary members of the Security Council, and it is in the provisions of my Private Member’s Bill before your Lordships’ House.

 

Under the genocide convention, the Government have a duty in law to act, and act they must. 

 

Syria desperately needs an end to violations against the civilian population, including summary executions, hostage-taking, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence. 

 

It needs the release of children, women, the elderly and the disabled from detention centres.

 

 It needs an end to siege tactics, to ensure that there is immediate and timely access to, and provision of, humanitarian assistance. One day it will need both the right to return and protection. 

 

If ever future genocides and crimes against humanity are contemplated, the world needs to see that perpetrators of such crimes will be held to account and that any final settlement will not include amnesties for gross violations of human rights, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

 

All those who have suffered in Syria’s bloodletting deserve nothing less.