Times leader, March 28th,: the destruction of Christians from the Middle East “now amounts to nothing less than genocide“; “ Christians are victims of genocidal terror”….“Christians from the Middle s East have a moral and legal claim to western asylum based on the recent rulings that the wholesale destruction of their communities now amounts to nothing less than genocide. That crime, most hideously demonstrated by the Nazis, now enjoins others to take active steps to protect the victims.”
Boris Johnson– Daily Telegraph March 28th: Isis are engaged in what can only be called genocide of the poor Yazidis ,though for some baffling reason the Foreign Office still hesitates to use the term genocide.”
Home Office claims that Pakistan’s Christians arediscriminated against but not persecuted: “tell the grieving, mourning, families of Lahore how they come to that conclusion.”
Latest Information on the campaign to have the persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Syria and Iraq declared a genocide:
Other Motions for Debate: (tabled March 23rd 2016)
†Lord Alton of Liverpool to move to resolve that this House concurs with resolution 75 of the United States Congress, resolution 2016/2529(RSP) of the European Parliament, the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the recent declaration of the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, that religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria are suffering genocide; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to refer those resolutions to the United Nations Security Council with a view to conferring jurisdiction on the International Criminal Court or to having the Security Council establish an independent fact-finding commission of experts to investigate the allegations of genocide.
Questions for Short Debate
Time limit 1 hour or 1½ hours
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to ensure that those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity against minorities in Syria and Iraq are brought to justice. (tabled 27 January)
Conservative Home Page: Luke de Pulford, member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission:
Genocide Petition: sign here –
Would Mr Cameron still refuse to use the g-word if, like me, he had met the young Syrian Christian father of five who was kidnapped, told to convert at gunpoint and who watched helpless as icons were smashed on the ground in front of his face?” – John Pontifex of the charity, Aid to the Church In need. He has just returned from Syria.
Diocese of Shrewsbury : Thursday 24th March 2016 For immediate release:
End the genocide of Christians and work to build peace
The Bishop of Shrewsbury will on Easter Sunday encourage the Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq at the hands of the so-called Islamic State terror group.
In an Easter morning homily preached in Shrewsbury Cathedral, the Rt Rev. Mark Davies will echo the opinion of Pope Francis, the United States and the European Parliament that the atrocities committed by ISIS constitute a campaign of genocide.
He will call on Catholics to ask the British Government to follow the examples of other major western powers and to acknowledge that the terrorists are intending “to destroy a people” by acts of extreme violence. This hate-filled violence is reflected in the “indiscriminate terror”, which has recently been seen in the cities of Brussels and Paris.
Standing in solidarity with Christian leaders of the Middle East, Bishop Davies will also urge political leaders to seek to address the humanitarian crisis not only by assisting refugees but also by building peace in the war-torn countries from which they are fleeing.
Europe, the Bishop will say, will find the strength and right direction to be a peace-maker and to resolve the refugee crisis if it is guided by the Christian vision at the heart of its foundation.
Bishop Davies will say: “This Easter, we must ask our own Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the crime of genocide being perpetrated against Christians and other minorities in the very region where the Christian faith began. The British government has refused to join other western governments in recognising this intent to destroy a people. The indiscriminate terror visited on the streets of Europe’s cities, whose victims we are remembering today reflects the same hate-filled violence which is focused on the destruction of whole communities. In addressing the refugee crisis on a historic scale we also need to urgently address what causes families to flee from violence and terror.”
“… Christian leaders across the region … remind us that in responding to the symptoms of this crisis, we must not turn our eyes from its cause.
The danger of ‘compassion fatigue’ or despair at the chaos of a whole region
demands we find renewed energy to work for peace. In this past century Europe has learnt the lessons of peace amid death and destruction and a vast refugee crisis. In 1945 and again in 1989, Europe drew on its inheritance of Christian faith and values to re-build the peace of this continent and the life of its peoples shattered by war and genocide.
It is only in being true to this faith, which teaches us the value and dignity of every human being, that Europe will be able to rise to meet new challenges and be capable of building peace rather than contributing to further chaos and destruction. The world looks to us not for the politics of narrow self-interest; but for the hope that enduring peace can be built.”
John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, this month declared the actions of Islamic State to be genocide. Earlier, the U.S. House of Representative had voted unanimously to recognise the crimes as genocide and the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have also reached the same conclusion.
If a resolution recognising the genocide was adopted by the United Nations, the countries which have signed the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide would have an obligation to bring the activities of ISIS to an end, to prioritise the protection of the victims, and to pursue and prosecute perpetrators once the hostilities were over.
In seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate, ISIS has since 2014 persecuted anyone who does not share its ideology.
Terrorists have assassinated Church leaders and have driven millions of Christians and Yazidis from their homes in a campaign which has included mass murders, crucifixions, beheadings, torture, kidnapping, sexual enslavement, systematic rape and forced conversions. Many Christian churches, monasteries, shrines and cemeteries have been destroyed.
Pope Francis, during a trip to Bolivia in July, used the word “genocide” to describe the plight of the persecuted Christians.
In Britain, the Government has resisted calls to recognise genocide in spite of receiving a letter from 75 politicians asking it to do so. Among those who signed was Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, the former head of the British armed forces, and Lord Evans of Weardale, the former head of MI5.
On Monday an amendment to the Immigration Bill was rejected by 148 votes to 111 after the Government imposed a whip on Conservative peers to ensure that it would fail.
The measure, tabled by Lord Alton of Liverpool, had proposed that the High Court should decide if the atrocities committed against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria constituted genocide.
For the full text of the homily of Bishop Davies contact Simon Caldwell, communications officer for the Diocese of Shrewsbury, on either 07730 526847 or email@example.com Twitter:@ShrewsRCnews
Isis is committing genocide. It is indefensible for Britain not to say so | Helena Kennedy: click here to read:
Daily Telegraph Editorial
6:30AM GMT 18 Mar 2016
America has finally acknowledged that Christians and other religious minorities are being butchered in the Middle East. Why does the UK government not do the same?
Why has it taken so long for the United States to acknowledge that there is a genocide happening in the Middle East? Yesterday John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is ethnically cleansing “Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims�. The White House has hitherto avoided sectarian language for fear of pouring fuel on the fire – but the fire is already out of control. Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, said this week that two thirds of Syrian Christians had either been killed or driven away from his country.
Barack Obama’s refusal to call a genocide a genocide is representative of a halting, often contradictory approach to the crisis in the Arab world. In Libya, the mess of an earlier intervention is still being cleaned up. After five years of anarchy, an internationally-led effort to establish a stable government is finally being implemented; there is talk of British military advisers stepping in to the fray. The ambition is to help Libyans help themselves and, by so doing, halt both Isil and the flood of refugees across the Mediterranean.
The West needs a proper plan in Libya, and labelling Isil as a genocidal movement reflects greater realism about the task ahead. It must involve recognising what the fanatics’ goals are, including ethnic cleansing. Sadly, the British government still refuses to do this, insisting that it is up to judges to define genocide. Next week a group of peers will table an amendment to the immigration Bill triggering just such a judicial decision. Government opposition to this amendment would seem odd following Mr Kerry’s intervention. Religious minorities are being persecuted: the West has a moral duty to speak up for them.
Cross-party peers in UK campaign to recognise Islamic State ‘genocide’
Dozens back immigration bill amendment to declare killing of Christians and Yazidis a genocide, but government opposes it
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian 21 March 2016 07.00
A cross -party group of peers is stepping up its campaign to have the persecution and killing of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria declared a genocide with an amendment to the immigration bill. A vote to decide is expected on Monday.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said last week that Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and others, and there was a unanimous vote along similar lines in the European parliament last month.
The UK government has refused to make such a declaration, insisting it is a matter for international judicial bodies. Its position is “morally indefensible”, said Helena Kennedy, one of those backing the amendment in the House of Lords.
Dozens of peers have backed the amendment but the government is instructing its members to vote against it.
The amendment says that a person seeking asylum in the UK, who belongs to “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” that is subject to genocide as defined under international law, should be presumed to meet the conditions of asylum. Crucially, it adds that a supreme court judge should adjudicate on whether genocide has been committed “after consideration of the available facts”.
As well as Lady Kennedy, others peers supporting the amendment include Michael Forsyth, Emma Nicholson, Caroline Cox and David Alton.
In a letter sent to peers urging their support, Cox said: “It is noteworthy that, in the past two years, two serving foreign secretaries have lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda quickly enough, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence. We have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself.”
Kennedy has cited the evidence of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP in Iraq. “Her testimony is like a knife in the heart. Her voice shakes as she describes the slaughter of hundreds of men and boys, the kidnapping of women and girls from their families, who are then raped and raped again continuously over months, their vaginas and uteruses torn and shredded by [Isis] men who treat them like animals. Some of the girls are as young as eight and nine,” said Kennedy.
“A few who have escaped are suffering such severe trauma that doctors visiting the refugee camps are in despair. Vian describes the mass graves, the beheadings of children, the crucifixions. She cannot understand why western governments are doing nothing to help them when barely a day passes without news of further genocidal atrocities.”
According to Alton, a campaigner against the persecution of Christians, actions committed by Isis include “assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike”.
He told the House of Lords last month: “History proves that once the word ‘genocide’ is used to designate heinous and targeted crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop those atrocities.”
In December, 75 peers wrote to David Cameron, urging the government to declare events in Syria and Iraq a genocide. Signatories included Charles Guthrie, the former head of the UK military, and Jonathan Evans, the former head of MI5.
“This is not simply a matter of semantics,” the letter said. The consequences of a declaration of genocide would be twofold: firstly, to warn those responsible that they would one day face justice for their actions, and secondly to require the 147 countries that have signed the convention on genocide to take action to prevent and punish the perpetrators.
Cameron dismissed the calls in a letter to Alton last week, reported in the Daily Telegraph. “It is essential that these decisions are based on credible judicial processes,” he said. “Not only are the courts best placed to judge criminal matters but their impartiality also ensures the protection of the UK government from the politicisation and controversies that often attach themselves to the question of genocide.
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recently reviewed this longstanding position and I agree with their conclusion that there is no need to reconsider it at this time.”
If the amendment wins a majority in the Lords, it will be passed to the Commons
A Com Res poll published this weekend indicated that 68% of British people agree that Britain should use its international influence to ensure that these horrific events are classed as a genocide. Around two-thirds said that the killing is Britain’s concern, that Britain should recognise it as genocide, raise the issue at the UN and conduct a formal inquiry into the claims of genocide. Only 7% disagree.
Op-ed piece – Genocide: The Crime Above All Crimes: David Alton and Caroline Cox
On Monday, a group of Peers will move an amendment which, after consideration of the evidence, will enable the High Court to declare a genocide and require the Government to fulfil its duties under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The amendment has been driven by events in Syria and Iraq and comes just days after Secretary of State Kerry declared that “In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.
In the wake of the Second World War, and some of the worst atrocities in history, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It recognized that international cooperation was needed “to liberate mankind from this odious scourge. Countries that sign up to the Convention “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide and the United Kingdom added its signature in 1970.
Under international law, genocide – the crime above all crimes – is a particularly heinous crime because it is committed with the intention of eradicating a specific people group from the face of the earth – a concerted effort to remove a particular thread from our diverse human tapestry.
All too easily minorities can find themselves in acute and vulnerable situations. Their voices are not always heard, and their very way of life can be threatened when they are viewed with hatred by the majority. By contrast, their existence and ability to thrive is the hallmark of a well-functioning democracy that is tolerant and respectful of difference.
Historically, Iraq and Syria are both countries with a diverse spread of minority populations, defined by religion, ethnicity and sometimes both. Yazidis, Assyrians and Christians are all examples of groups who have remained in the minority for thousands of years, but add a rich cultural heritage to the lands that they inhabit.
Even before the rise of ISIS, these minorities were seen as a ‘lesser’ class of citizen in their own countries: Saddam Hussien did not legally recognize Assyrians in Iraq – he forced them to register as either ‘Arab’ or ‘Kurd’ – and even since the fall of Hussein’s regime, one local government official has been quoted as saying, “you are a minority, how dare you ask for any rights, you should be ashamed of yourself.
With the rise of ISIS/Daesh in the region, this harsh treatment has turned from sentiment to violence. Reports from the region detail bombings, mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children.
Despite being under an obligation to “prevent and punish” acts of genocide, our Government has insisted that it is long-standing policy that any judgments on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the “international judicial system� rather than governments or other non-judicial bodies.
However, even before John Kerry’s declaration, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the US House of Representatives have all recently adopted statements recognising the atrocities as genocide.
For how much longer will Britain stand silent?
The minorities whose very existence is under direct and immediate threat deserve more than a promise that the “international judicial system” will investigate, without any action to engage the said system.
In April of last year, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court appeared to lament the absence of a referral of the situation from the UN Security Council.
Without that explicit grant of jurisdiction, she considered that her legal basis for investigating ISIS was not concrete enough. The United Kingdom punches well above its weight on the international stage and is an influential permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is time use that influence and show that we have learned the lessons of history.
Remembering Europe’s past should highlight the importance of decisive action, along with the recognition that nothing good can come from remaining silent.
Our amendment has cross-party support and seeks to establish a mechanism for the United Kingdom to determine whether acts of genocide are being perpetrated, and then affording those subject to those genocidal acts appropriate consideration when it comes to applications for asylum.
The amendment follows letters to the Prime Minister, signed by 75 Members of both Houses, including the former heads of our armed forces and intelligence agency, the former Lord Chancellor, and eminent judicial figures.
In responding to the victims of genocide the provision will not oblige the Government to take in any more refugees than the number to which it has already committed itself, it will prioritise those who have been the victims of this crime above all crimes.
In light of the situation unfolding in the Middle East, where minorities are being annihilated, before our very eyes. this is of vast importance.
Now is the time to must make good on the rhetoric and commitment to “never again”, heralded by our decision to sign the Genocide Convention. The House of Lords has the opportunity to trigger the judicial determination which the government seems so reluctant to make and would be a good first step.
(Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Cox of Queensbury are Independent Crossbench Peers and the co-sponsors of the genocide amendment are Baroness Kennedy QC (Lab), Baroness Nicholson (LD) and Lord Forsyth (Con).
Resolution of the International Association of Genocide Scholars concerning crimes of ISIS
The International Association of Genocide Scholars, the world’s largest organization of experts on genocide, call upon the United Nations and all its member states to declare that the crimes committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also known as Da’esh, constitute genocide in violation of the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Genocide is the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such. ISIS is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against groups that do not conform to ISIS’s definition of ‘true Islam’ and its vision for the ‘caliphate,’ including Ezidis, Christians, Shia Muslims, Sunni Kurds and other minority groups.
ISIS’s policy of mass rape is also genocidal. The gendered pattern of persecution pursued by ISIS against groups it considers to be infidels conforms to historical patterns of genocide, particularly the mass killing of men and teenage boys accompanied by the rape and enslavement of women and teenage girls and the kidnapping of children.
ISIS “government” in areas it has occupied includes beheadings of captives and people considered apostates, destruction of religious centers such as churches and monasteries, and pillage of ancient cultural sites that do not conform to the regime’s religious orthodoxy—acts typical of genocidal regimes.
In addition to genocide we believe that ISIS has perpetrated crimes against humanity, including:
• deportation and forcible transfers of populations;
• rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, and other forms of sexual
violence of comparable gravity;
• persecution against identifiable groups on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds;
• enforced disappearance of persons; and
• other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.
ISIS commits war crimes as part of a plan or policy on a large scale. These prohibited acts include:
• mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
• taking of hostages;
• intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population;
• intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historical monuments or hospitals;
• rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and other forms of sexual violence;
• conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.
We call upon the United Nations Security Council to refer the ISIS situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution.
Government Oppose Genocide Amendment 121 March 21st 2016 : Column 2151
Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool
121: After Clause 63, insert the following new Clause—
“Conditions for grant of asylum: cases of genocide
(1) A person seeking asylum in the United Kingdom who belongs to a national, ethnical, racial or religious group which is, in the place from which that person originates, subject to the conditions detailed in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, shall be presumed to meet the conditions for asylum in the United Kingdom.
(2) The adjudication of whether the group to which the person seeking asylum belongs meets the description specified in subsection (1) shall be determined by a referral to the High Court after consideration of the available facts.
(3) Applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom from groups designated under this section may submit their applications and have them assessed at British missions overseas.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, serendipity, or the way the dice fall, means that the House is having to hear rather more from me than I—or, no doubt, the House—would wish at this time. I thank my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, for their support on this amendment, either today or when we discussed it in Committee on 3 February.
Before setting out the case for the amendment, I draw the attention of the House to one important change in the wording since Committee, following the helpful advice of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Judge and Lord Hope of Craighead. They suggested that the consideration of evidence of genocide and the declaration that genocide has been committed should be made by the High Court, rather than the Supreme Court. We have therefore incorporated that change into the text. I also thank the Minister for meeting me to discuss the amendment.
During the debate on 3 February, I cited the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to declare the atrocities which had been committed by ISIS—Daesh—against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria to be a genocide. The very next week, the European Parliament decisively passed a similar resolution, recognising the killing of minorities in the region as genocide. Since our Committee debate, on 9 March Congress and the State Department received a 300-page report detailing more than 1,000 instances of ISIS deliberately massacring, killing, torturing, enslaving, kidnapping or raping Christians. It had similar evidence about the plight of Yazidis, along with the findings of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.
Last week, the American House of Representatives, by 393 votes to zero, declared that grotesque and targeted beheadings, enslavement, mass rape and other
21 Mar 2016 : Column 2151
atrocities against Christians and other minorities indeed constitute a genocide. I will not read the entire resolution of the House of Representatives but the last phrase says that,
“the atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons are, and are hereby declared to be, ‘crimes against humanity’, and ‘genocide’”.
Later in the week, on behalf of the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry, said:
“Naming these crimes is important”,
and that Daesh, in targeting these minorities with the purpose of their annihilation, is,
“genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”—
in what it says, what it believes and, indeed, what it does. He called for criminal charges to be brought against those responsible.
On Friday last, in a leading article, the Daily Telegraph urged the British Government to recognise the reality of what is under way, saying that the West has a “moral duty” to name this genocide for what it is. It said:
“Sadly, the British government still refuses to do this, insisting that it is up to judges to define genocide. Next week a group of peers will table an amendment to the immigration Bill triggering just such a judicial decision. Government opposition to this amendment would seem odd following Mr Kerry’s intervention”.
For many months, much of the same evidence that Congress and the European Parliament have seen and acted upon has been available to the United Kingdom Government and this Parliament. It has been catalogued in Early Day Motions tabled in another place, during evidence-taking sessions here, and in letters to the Prime Minister from distinguished and eminent Members of both Houses, including the former Lord Chancellor. Anyone who has heard first-hand accounts from Yazidi women of enslavement and rape or read the reports of mass graves, abductions, crucifixions, killings and torture cannot fail to be moved, and I know we will hear more on that from the noble Baronesses, Lady Nicholson and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, who have both met Yazidi women.
Last week, Antoine Audo, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, said that two-thirds of Syrian Christians had either been killed or driven away from his country. Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, has authenticated reports of Christian and Yazidi females—girls aged one to seven—being sold, with the youngest carrying the highest price tag. Last May, one 80-year-old Christian woman who stayed in Nineveh was reportedly burned alive. In another Christian family, the mother and 12 year-old daughter 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 of their home.
Nearly two years ago, on 23 July 2014, I warned in an opinion piece in the Times:
“The last Christian has been expelled from Mosul … The light of religious freedom, along with the entire Christian presence, has been extinguished in the Bible’s ‘great city of Nineveh’ … This follows the uncompromising ultimatum by the jihadists of Isis to convert or die”.
I said 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”.
21 Mar 2016 : Column 2152
But the world did not wake up and for those caught up in these barbaric events, the stakes are utterly existential.
Genocide is never a word to be used lightly and is not determined by the number of people killed but by specific genocidal intent. The position of the British Government has been to insist that declarations of genocide are not made by the Government but by the international judicial system, yet there has been no referral of any evidence by the Government to any court in Britain or elsewhere. This has become a circular argument which can be ended only by Parliament.
The Government’s position was reiterated in another place last week, when the Minister of State for International Development, Mr Desmond Swayne, was on the verge of misleading the House with a Parliamentary Answer that only states could commit genocide. He said:
“I believe that the decision as to what constitutes genocide is properly a judicial one. The International Criminal Court correspondent, Fatou Bensouda, has decided that, as Daesh is not a state party, this does not yet constitute genocide”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/3/16; col. 937.]
I hope the Minister will correct this today, or say whether it really is the position of the Government that no non-state party is capable of committing genocide under the 1948 genocide convention.
My understanding of what Fatou Bensouda actually said is that the ICC does not have territorial jurisdiction under the Rome statute over crimes committed on Iraqi or Syrian soil. This means that, in order to investigate, the ICC would need a referral from the UN Security Council. In fact, the prosecutor’s statement in April last year appeared to lament the absence of a referral of the situation from the Security Council, and concluded with the assurance:
“I stand ready to play my part”.
Surely, as a permanent member of the Security Council, we can trigger that by proposing a resolution. We should be leading the process, yet on 16 December last, in answer to a Parliamentary Question I tabled, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, told me:
“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yezidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.
As for referring the matter to the International Criminal Court, she told me in the Chamber on the same day:
“I understand that, as the matter stands, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, has determined not to take these matters forward”.—[Official Report, 16/12/15; col. 2146.]
In these circumstances, the genocide convention becomes nothing more than window dressing, which is an insult to the original drafters and ratifiers, as “never again” becomes a hollow slogan devoid of meaning.
This brings me to the heart of the amendment. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, in the wake of some of the worst atrocities in history. It was the culmination of years of campaigning by the Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, and recognised that “international co-operation” was needed,
“to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge”.
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When we added our signature in 1970, it laid upon us the moral and legal duty to,
“undertake to prevent and to punish”,
genocide—surely the crime above all crimes.
The minorities in the Middle East, whose very existence is under direct and immediate threat, deserve more than a promise that the international judicial system will investigate without any action to enlarge the said system. If the amendment passes, a judge from the High Court will be able to examine the available evidence and determine whether ISIS’s actions should be recognised as genocide. That in turn would require the Government to take concrete steps to protect the victims of ISIS and seek to bring the perpetrators to justice. Our cross-party amendment seeks to establish a mechanism for the United Kingdom to determine whether acts of genocide are being perpetrated and would then afford those subject to genocidal acts appropriate consideration when it comes to application for asylum.
The provision would not oblige the Government to take in any more refugees than the number to which they have already committed themselves but, within that number, it would prioritise those who have been the victims of this crime above all crimes. It would enable declared victims of genocide to make their applications from overseas, and if the UNHCR is unable to facilitate this, we would expect British overseas missions to assist those affected. In light of the situation unfolding in the Middle East, where minorities are being annihilated before our very eyes, this is of vast importance.
I visited the genocide sites in Rwanda—a salutary and chilling experience. I am always struck that President Clinton and British Ministers of the day say that their failure to identify and take action to prevent that genocide, which led to the loss of 1 million Tutsi lives, was their worst foreign affairs mistake. In the past two years, two serving Foreign Secretaries have similarly lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in both Rwanda and Bosnia quickly enough, despite the overwhelming and compelling evidence that existed. The noble Lord, Lord Hague, speaking as Foreign Secretary on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, said:
“The truth is that our ability to prevent conflict is still hampered by a gap between the commitments states have made and the reality of their actions”.
His successor, Mr Hammond, said last year that the horror of Srebrenica,
“demands that we all try to understand why those who placed their hope in the international community on the eve of genocide found that those hopes were dashed”.
The reality has been that once it is recognised that genocide is being committed, serious legal obligations follow, and states have proved reluctant to engage with their responsibilities. There are really only two options here. If there is no genocide, our obligations under the genocide convention have not been triggered, but if there is, how could we sleep at night having disregarded the chilling lessons of past genocides and endless equivocating? Instead of doing everything in our power to bring this unmitigated suffering to an end, are we content simply to let these matters pass?
21 Mar 2016 : Column 2154
By passing the amendment today, we have an opportunity to prevent history from repeating itself, to close the gap between the commitment we made in ratifying the 1948 genocide convention and the reality of our actions, not to once again dash the hopes of beleaguered and abandoned people exposed to the crime above all crimes. We also have the opportunity to make a step change by moving beyond aerial bombardment to a consideration of justice, to demand that, under our commitment to the rule of law, however long it takes, we will bring those responsible for abhorrent mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children to justice. I beg to move.
Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, in Committee, I gave my reasons for supporting the amendment and why I have no doubt that what is under way in Syria and Iraq is, in the strict technical sense of that word, genocide.
As my noble friend Lord Alton has reminded us, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the House of Representatives and US Secretary of State John Kerry have all come to the same conclusions. British public opinion agrees. A ComRes poll published this weekend indicated that 68% of British people agreed that Britain should use its international influence to ensure that these horrific events are classed as genocide. About two-thirds said that the current widespread killing is Britain’s concern, that Britain should recognise it as genocide, raise it at the UN and conduct a formal inquiry into the claims of genocide. Only 7% disagree but, sadly, our British Government seem to side with this small minority.
That is why we have had to bring this all-party amendment to the House again today. It gives the Government an opportunity to be in accord with the majority of the British public, who have a long and respected record for standing up for victims of persecution. It would also prioritise help for those minorities who have been targeted for eradication by Daesh, which incessantly boasts of its determination to annihilate diversity.
As my noble friend said, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has said that she stood ready to begin a genocide inquiry, but could not do so legally without orders from the UN Security Council, as Iraq and Syria are not signatories to the ICC’s founding charter. I understand that the French Government are now considering tabling such a resolution. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether that is so and, if they do, whether we may support them. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Britain could have tabled such a resolution, but has not, claiming that it is unable to declare genocide without a decision of the courts. However, as my noble friend emphasised, the Government have not asked the courts to make such a decision. That is why our amendment creates a route for the evidence to be considered by the High Court, so that we never again get into such a circular argument, which, if the circumstances were not so horrific and the human suffering so appalling, could almost be farcical.
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Your Lordships may be aware that several of us, including a former head of our intelligence service and a former head of our Armed Forces, recently wrote to the Prime Minister. In his reply, David Cameron reiterated his belief that a declaration of genocide must be a matter for the judicial system, although the House of Representatives, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament appear to have been able to do so. He said:
“Not only are the courts best placed to judge criminal matters but their impartiality also ensures the protection of the UK Government from the politicisation and controversies that so often attach themselves to the question of genocide”.
“It is essential these decisions are based on credible judicial processes.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have recently reviewed this long-standing position and I agree with their conclusion that there is no need to reconsider it at this time”.
He also said that he could not,
“make specific promises about UK action through the Security Council or the International Criminal Court at this time”.
Having heard first hand detailed testimonies, as my noble friend Lord Alton has described in great detail, of mass executions, mass graves, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, torture, mutilation, forced recruitment of children, and confiscation of homes and land, I personally cannot understand the Prime Minister’s position, so fundamentally incompatible with that of our American and European allies, who are convinced by the compelling, widely available and well-documented evidence. Our Government’s position also leaves victimised Christians, Yazidis and those of other faiths bewildered by the UK’s perceived lack of concern and support. John Pontifex of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, who was in Syria last month, says:
“Christians feel that they have been abandoned by the West as a whole, why they have been left to face the worst that extremism can throw at them…. It is a disgrace that it has taken so long but we are very grateful to John Kerry for having the guts and the stature to name it for what it is”.
He argues that recognition of genocide,
“would throw a lifeline of hope and show that there are people who care about what has happened and are determined to bring these people to justice, sending a signal very clearly that the world will not tolerate this butchery”.
It must be a priority to make it clear to those responsible for these barbarities that they will be brought to justice. Also, in accordance with the genocide convention, our amendment seeks to give refugees escaping from genocidal atrocities the ability to make an asylum application to the United Kingdom from overseas missions, as well as the existing opportunity to do so via UNHCR. It is important to emphasise, as my noble friend already has, that of course the Government have the right and the power to impose a ceiling of total numbers. We are arguing that that, within that number, genocide victims should be prioritised in accordance with the Prime Minister’s commitment to accept 20,000 of the most vulnerable minority groups who have been singled out by Daesh because of their religion or race. We also know that those who have been targeted do not represent a security threat to the United Kingdom and that, unlike other categories
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of asylum seekers, there are no countries in the region where they will be secure in the long term. They have nowhere to go.
A hearing, chaired by my noble friend and myself, poignantly held on Holocaust Memorial Day, was told by Major General Tim Cross:
“Crucially, the various minorities in the region are suffering terribly. There can be no doubt that genocide is being carried out on Yazidi and Christian communities—and the West/international community’s failure to recognise what is happening will be to our collective shame in years to come”.
How will our silence be perceived by subsequent generations? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian executed by the Nazis, said:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act”.
I conclude by quoting a testimony given here at Westminster, one that could be multiplied many times over, the true story of a Christian pastor in Aleppo about a villager who was told to convert or he would die; he was forced to watch his 12 year-old son tortured before his eyes. Neither he nor his son renounced their faith, and both were executed. Perhaps, in this Holy Week, we who enjoy so many freedoms and privileges should use the liberties we cherish to demand justice and protection for those who are denied the same freedoms and who are being barbarically targeted for extinction. Not to do so, not to speak and not to act, would bring great shame upon us all. I hope, passionately, that this amendment will be accepted.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I spoke in support of this amendment in Committee, although as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, it has been changed in the light of representations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I invited my noble friend Lord Bates to throw away his brief, tear it up and go back to his department—and I see that he has thrown his brief to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen. Nothing that has happened since has done anything other than to underline the appalling atrocities that are occurring against Christians in Syria and Iraq.
As I came into the Chamber this evening, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, gave me this document, which is the report submitted to John Kerry by the Knights of Columbus. There are pages and pages of testimony of the most barbaric atrocities, of kidnappings, violations and extortions. Anyone who just glances at this document, which is incredibly harrowing, cannot but conclude that something must be done to stop this.
No doubt in reply my noble and learned friend may make some legal arguments about why the amendment may not be exactly right. I have followed the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, whom I admire immensely, as does everyone in all parts of the House, for her courage and perseverance in seeking out examples of injustice. Having listened to her speech, I say to my noble and learned friend that he would be wise also to abandon his brief and to go back to the Foreign Office and ask it how the European Parliament—not an organisation that I spend a lot of time praising—and Congress are able to take a firm view but this Government seem incapable of doing so and hide behind legalistic arguments which prevent us offering sanctuary to people who are
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facing real persecution. They are fleeing not just war but also religious persecution, and they find themselves with nowhere to go.
The importance of recognising this for what it is—an appalling genocide—is that it enables us to stretch out a hand to these people, offer them sanctuary and get beyond the political correctness that says that we as a Christian country cannot offer sanctuary to Christians who are in real terror and despair. Many of these people use the language of Christ. If the parable of the Good Samaritan was about anything, it was about not passing by on the other side. I cannot share the expertise or the knowledge of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, or the noble Lord, Lord Alton, but I urge all Members of the House and those outside the House to look at this document and the evidence and ask ourselves how much longer we are prepared to stand by and not acknowledge what is going on, which is a systematic attempt to destroy Christianity throughout the Middle East by people using barbaric medieval methods. It is essential that we find a way in which we can offer sanctuary to people who are victims. This amendment suggests a way in which that could be done, not just in terms of offering sanctuary but in bringing to justice those who have been responsible for these barbarous crimes. I hope that the House will feel able to pass the amendment or that my noble and learned friend will offer us a way forward which enables the Government to act and to not pass by on the other side.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, none of us who is pressing this amendment invokes the word “genocide” too readily. For most of us, this term will be forever associated with the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps and the deliberate effort to exterminate the Jews during the Second World War. It is a word that carries incredible weight, and its importance cannot be diluted. We are taking about something of great seriousness when we talk about genocide.
“Genocide” has a specific legal meaning and the alarming truth is that, while genocidal violence has been perpetrated around the world since the Second Word War on a number of occasions, we find that very often there is resistance to using the terminology and a refusal to recognise genocide as genocide because it carries legal responsibilities with it. Noble Lords have heard a number of times that we have now heard the United States Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States Congress and the European Parliament all being of one voice about what is happening in the Middle East.
I remind the House that the 1948 genocide convention defines genocide as,
“acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
That is what is currently happening towards the Yazidi people, Christians and Shi’ites—anyone who refuses to convert. For the Yazidis it goes even further: because theirs is a pre-Abrahamic religious grouping, they are considered to be of lesser value, and in fact as less than human, in ISIL’s interpretation of Islam. The testimonies we have been hearing are absolutely barbaric. A week yesterday, I met for the second time the Yazidi Member
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of Parliament Vian Dakhil. She has been trying to draw the world’s attention to the plight of her people. I heard her account of spending time with families that are now in refugee camps and of the descriptions of what they have seen. Hundreds of men and boys have been slaughtered. Women and girls have been kidnapped from their families, some of them really very young children, and raped and raped again, continuously over months, their vaginas torn, then passed on and sold between men. She finds it hard to find words for what is happening. She says that these are girls who will never be able to have a proper family life when they grow into adulthood.
So we are talking about genocide. We are talking about the destruction of a people and their ability to procreate. That is at the heart of some of the things that are currently happening. Some of the girls, as I say, are as young as seven, eight or nine. A few who have escaped are suffering from the most severe trauma. Doctors are visiting the refugee camps to try to work with some of the girls, but they do not have the facilities so cannot help them with the terrible traumatic effects—not just physical but mental, as I am sure noble Lords can imagine. Some feel that they can never be intimate with anyone ever again in their lives. Mrs Vian describes the mass graves that she has visited, the beheadings of children and the crucifixions that we have heard referred to by other noble Lords, and she cannot understand why western Governments are not being more vociferous about these horrors and naming them as genocidal atrocities.
Genocide requires a very high evidential burden. All of us lawyers working in the field know that no one doubts that these acts have to reach a very high legal threshold. However, these acts do just that. The constitutive acts of killing, causing bodily or mental harm, raping, preventing birth, and the forced transferring of people from their land all meet the legal requirements of genocide, so we should not be in any doubt that we are dealing with genocide here. We have to break the cycle of inertia that we have heard described.
It is for that reason that those of us who have put our names to this amendment are coming before this House to say, “Something has to be done”. There are two purposes in the amendment. The first is to have a legal authority hear the evidence and make a declaration that what is happening against minorities in Syria and Iraq is genocide. The second is to establish under our immigration processes a scheme that would particularly prioritise those who face genocide. We are suggesting not that this should be a collecting together of every Yazidi person who exists in the world, but that within the cap that has already been set by the Government, who have spoken about giving places to 20,000 people, priority should be given to those who are as vulnerable as these victims are.
The Government have spoken about wanting to protect the most vulnerable. Who could be more vulnerable than the women, girls and children and the families we are hearing about, who have suffered in this way?
This is therefore a simple and humane amendment, which gives the UK a solid legal basis to push for the recognition of genocide at an international level so
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that we can then go to the Security Council and say that we have the judicial authority from our judicial system, and press the Security Council to put into action the investigations that are needed. You need to take testimonies from these young women and girls now. That work has to be done, and as we have heard, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has indicated her willingness to do this once she is given the authority. However, that also means that we can give the kind of help that is needed by providing places, under a recognised scheme, to those who are most in need of the kind of medical help that these girls need. If noble Lords were to listen to the account given by this Yazidi Member of the Iraqi Parliament—the only one—no one in this House could feel anything other than a sense of shame, horror and moral repugnance. We have to say, “It’s not good enough—we have to act now”.
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD):My Lords, I speak this evening in the name of those who would undoubtedly qualify under this extremely modest amendment, were your Lordships’ House see fit to pass it.
I have in front of me some evidence in Reports, Resolutions, and Documents in Favor of a Declaration of Genocide by So-Called Isis, Isil, or Da’esh. It is a fairly hefty chunk of material, and I have to ask myself why we the British people—and we in the House of Lords, who in some ways represent the British population—who have harboured so many victims of genocide over the centuries, are the last to come forward.
Here we have five major reports, from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide and the Knights of Columbus. These are remarkable, full, dense dossiers, which offer evidence. In consequence, we have seven resolutions, which are magnificent in their breadth and human understanding, from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the United States Senate, House of Representatives and Department of State, the European Parliament, the Republic of Lithuania and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly. I am sure that the Minister will notice that those resolutions reflect two great blocs of democracy, although they miss out India; I have nothing from there, as it has its own problems with regard to this. We have the USA and the entirety of Europe—not just the European Parliament or the European Union but the 47-state Council of Europe. That is no mean set of resolutions, and we have 30 appendices with major support.
I offer this dossier to the Minister. It is carefully researched, utterly accurate—and where is the United Kingdom? It is nowhere. Those 30 appendices are all statements to the United Kingdom, to Her Majesty’s Government—they are all requests. One of mine is in there, way back in October 2014. I urged the Ministers in Her Majesty’s Government to look at different ways, given the difficulties of classifying genocide and of using it, which we all know so well. There are many different ways around this that creative lawyers can
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work out. This modest amendment tonight is yet another effort to try to achieve that same goal, to define genocide against at least one of the religious minorities of Iraq, the Yazidis, and, if at all possible, some of the others. I speak as a Christian, a communicant member of the Church of England.
My request in October 2014 was rather late, because this genocide started much earlier than that. It started in 2003 and went on in 2004 and 2006; it rose to a height in 2007. The minorities in Mosul were forced to leave their homes, and Yazidis were also attacked around the Sinjar area. They were pushed to the Nineveh plain. We knew; we had our military there. We knew absolutely everything, but we did not even talk about it then. By October 2014—some seven, eight, nine and 10 years later—the caliphate’s design to wipe out the Yazidis and attack the other religious minorities was in full swing. It was characterised in just the way that the genocide convention instructs us to look out for and act upon, anywhere and everywhere that we find it. Even if there is only one case for genocide—one individual—we are tasked to act by the convention that we assisted in drafting.
What do I mean by that? Mass kidnap, mass assault, mass design for extinction of a named race, which is distinguished by its race, faith, dress, culture and rituals from others of the same nationality—all of those things make qualifications of genocide. Under all those headings, the Yazidis in particular qualify. They are a distinctive, separate people within the universe of modern Iraq. For example, they have just one religious day a week, Wednesday. They have only one temple; they do not, like the Abrahamic faiths, have many opportunities to worship at different places. They have different dress: yes, the Mandaeans also wear white, but on a Saturday rather than a Wednesday, for example. They have a different social structure entirely from the remainder of their fellow national Iraqis. There are a number of different ways, in their prayer life and their religious rituals, which differ them uniquely; there is no way of denying that.
The mass kidnap and religious persecution that the Yazidis have endured is falsely justified by some peculiar, perverted distortion of Islam, which is shown by the letter from their leader, Mr al-Baghdadi himself, when he quotes verses, pulls them out and distorts or repositions them, so that Islam is said to justify mass rape and mass extinction. There are mass executions, to destroy the bloodline. For a society that is not allowed to marry out or marry in, it is very easy indeed to wipe them out: if you kill the males, the females have no one left to work with. There is also forced marriage and the destroying of infants. I hope that the Minister has never seen or tried to touch an infant of 18 months that has been repeatedly raped; it is a devastating experience. That is what is happening. They are destroying infants, impregnating young girls and forcing conversion. If you destroy the religion, the bloodline and the family structure, you actually extinguish the race. If that is not genocide, nothing qualifies at all.
Because nobody was listening, my colleagues and I brought three young ladies here to talk about it, in June 2015. One of them, Noor, aged 22, said, “They took the men away in cars. In the distance we could see them being killed. The windows in the room we were
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held in were painted black. Sixty-three Daesh fighters came in and picked girls and started to rape them. I said to the man who picked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’. He said we were kafirs and he would kill us Yazidis as long as he lived. He would rape our women and kill our children”. That is genocide. On her first escape attempt, this poor girl of 22 was caught, brought back and locked in a room with 12 guards, who raped her continuously for 12 hours.
I speak in a personal capacity this evening. However, this evidence is on the web. The evidence to the Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict, which I have had the honour to chair, is on the internet. Our report is in the final stages of completion and I cannot comment at all on the committee’s findings.
Munira is 15 years old. She was taken by a 60 year-old Daesh. He said to her that their religion instructs them to rape Yazidi girls. Bushira, who is 20, was raped five times a day. Because she struggled, she was tied up permanently by her hands and feet. “Whenever I close my eyes”, she said, “I see children, old men and women killed in front of me on the street”.
Nihad Alawsi, who came through the week before, is 16. She said, “They killed the men and the older women. They kidnapped us girls, raped us and took our babies”. She asked, “What more needs to happen before the world does something about it?”. Her Majesty’s Government cannot claim ignorance. In the last 10 days, Nihad’s testimony has gone all over the globe and, again, is on the web.
I support my Government and do not like saying this, but I am deeply concerned as to where the British values are that we cherish and highlight. Where is the British action? Do we need to turn again to our US allies and friends, since we have failed so vastly? We have kept these youngsters waiting.
During that waiting time, other terrible things have happened. Trafficking has arisen. In August 2014, when I first met some of these young ladies in Iraq, the price of gaining the release of one of your family members was between $200 and $450. Now, because of the waiting time, it is between $7,500 and $35,000 per person. That is what has happened during that waiting time—not just the destruction of individuals. The level of trafficking has risen, the price has gone up and the impossibility of retrieving family members by any normal means, save by traffickers, has receded out of sight.
I chair the AMAR Foundation, although, again, I speak in a personal capacity. We have about a quarter of a million patients who are Yazidis, Christians, Mandaeans, and Shia and Sunni Muslims, members of whom are all being killed. We provide help, safety and support for them. One hundred and fifty thousand Yazidis are in the care of the AMAR Foundation, and about another 150 of them are employed. I am not just relying on the stories of four sad young girls who came here; I have the knowledge that has been given to me since August 2014—I was late in visiting and I am ashamed of that. This information pours in every single moment.
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In October 2014, I made a very strong request to Her Majesty’s Government to actively pursue all possibilities of prosecution, setting up political and judicial processes. I gave many opportunities in the short statement that I made. If Her Majesty’s Government still find difficulties with the definition of genocide, I refer them to the International Association of Genocide Scholars, who said recently:
“ISIS’s mass murders of Chaldean, Assyrian, Melkite Greek, and Coptic Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Sunni Kurds”—
they left out other Sunnis who are also being slaughtered—
“meet even the strictest definition of genocide”.
Again, since Her Majesty’s Government seem somehow unwilling to act, I draw the attention of the House to the first words of a statement made at the beginning of this month by two superb professors at Princeton University, where I will be next week, Cornel West and Robert P George. The first few words of their statement on genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria says:
“In the name of decency, humanity and truth”.
I support the amendment.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I have two concerns in relation to this issue, to which I will speak briefly. First, in our prayers in this House and in homes across the country, we cry out to God that this terrible violence will cease and we look for any small contribution we can make to hasten its end. Secondly, we are determined that those inflicting such terrible suffering will be brought to justice before the International Criminal Court, where such atrocities are properly dealt with. There is, as we have heard, a growing consensus that the systematic violence of people operating in the name of Daesh is rightly described as genocidal. This is what people outside this House call it, whether they know or understand the legal definitions or not, and we need to be very mindful of what would be heard were we not to pass this amendment.
Legally, the matter turns on whether we are confronted by,
“acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
I understand the caution of the Government and other experts about applying the word “genocide”. There are risks. Some worry that the strength and clarity of the legal definition of genocide could be somehow devalued if it is applied to such a complex set of conflicts as prevails in the countries involved. Some worry that the genocide label could encourage false understanding of the situation as conflict between different ethnic or religious groups. There is also the risk of removing Christians and members of other minorities from the area to a point where those minorities, with a long history and characteristic identity in that place, could become unviable. I smile at that—if not I would weep—because this is, of course, precisely what is happening at the moment. However, it is obviously something that we wish to avoid. Only last week, the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Coventry, Southwark and Leeds visited these places and this was their primary concern.
However, we can live with those risks while trying to mitigate them. Our urgent prayer is for Christians, Yazidis and a variety of other identifiable groups against which the hatred of Daesh is directed, and,
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supremely, for each individual—each of them precious to God. Therefore, can the category of “genocidal acts” help to stop the killing and help to bring the perpetrators sooner to account for their crimes? Yes, I believe it can.
The role of the Supreme Court is a matter for those with expertise in legal and constitutional matters. However, I note the support of a number of distinguished jurists for applying the label of genocide. The ability of people in this category to submit asylum applications at British missions overseas offers a reasonable additional route, alongside the work of the UNHCR, in identifying and bringing for resettlement those at greatest risk.
The General Synod of the Church of England has declared that it wants the Government to work with the UNHCR to ensure that vulnerability to religiously motivated persecution is taken into account when determining who is received into Britain. It calls on the Government to work with international partners to help establish safe and legal routes for people to come to this country who are so at risk.
The force of this amendment, whatever the issues of detail, is simply that the word genocidal is not too strong for what is happening. The seriousness of the national and international response needs to take that into account.
Perhaps I may briefly quote a passage from scripture—not an obvious one on this occasion for this situation. I have always been very moved by what Jesus said after the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. After they had all been fed, he said to the disciples: “Gather up the fragments. Let nothing be lost”. I believe that this amendment can help in a small way to address this situation, so that those who are most in danger of being lost could—maybe a few of them—be found.
Lord Pannick (CB): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and other noble Lords who have spoken have made an overwhelming case that acts of genocide are being carried out by Daesh, and they have made an overwhelming case that it is shameful that Her Majesty’s Government are not prepared to say so. I cannot understand the basis on which Her Majesty’s Government assert that a judicial determination is required before they are able to say that genocide is occurring. I would be particularly grateful if the Minister, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, were to explain why a judicial determination is required. Any such approach seems quite inconsistent with Article 8 of the 1948 genocide convention, which states:
“Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide”.
It is implicit in that that any contracting state is going to form a view that acts of genocide are taking place and in the light of that to make a request. I can see no basis whatever for the Government’s policy.
I have much more difficulty with the substance of this amendment because it proceeds on what seems to be the incorrect premise that a judicial determination is required in relation to genocide. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others that a judicial determination is not required before Her Majesty’s Government can state what their position is.
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In any event, I am concerned that the substance of the amendment confuses the law relating to genocide with the different subject of refugee status. The genocide convention is concerned with the bringing to justice of the perpetrators of genocide in criminal courts, either the local court or the International Criminal Court. It is not concerned with refugee status; it makes no mention of the subject. This is not a technicality. What the substance of the amendment seeks to do is impose some obligations—we heard that they may not be very extensive—on the diplomatic mission of the United Kingdom abroad to accept applications for refugee status. It is a fundamental principle of refugee law, for sensible and practical reasons, that an asylum claim cannot be made at a consulate or an embassy of the United Kingdom in another country.
So I am not myself keen on the substance of this amendment, but I repeat that I share the concerns about the position being adopted by Her Majesty’s Government and their refusal to state publicly and importantly that acts of genocide are being carried out. If the noble Lord, Lord Alton, decides to divide the House, he will have my support precisely because I oppose the Government’s general policy in this area.
Viscount Hailsham: My Lords, I find myself in great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has just said. If this were a general debate about genocide, I would find myself in total agreement with what has been said by all noble Lords who have contributed; there have been some very remarkable speeches. But it is not. We are actually talking about legislation and we have to ask ourselves the serious question: is what this House is contemplating by way of legislation make legal sense? It is there that I part from those who are advocating this amendment.
I want to concentrate briefly on subsection (1) of the proposed new clause because there are three points that I would like to make about it. First, we are not in the business of talking about groups, although the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, did talk about groups. The question is whether an individual belongs to a group, and that involves adjudication, a decision. It is made in the context where there is an enormous amount of scope, and motive too, for misrepresentation. It is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between a Tajik and an Uzbek or, for that matter, between an Alawite, a Sunni and a Shia. They may all have reason for misrepresenting their status. To put the test in the way that it is expressed in subsection (1) will open up an enormous amount of judicial argument.
The second point is slightly different. In the second line of the subsection is the phrase “in the place”—not in the country, but in the place. The truth is that in a country like Iraq, a Shia may be unsafe in a particular area but can move to another area where he or she is safe. Simply to have the test of whether the conditions exist in the place where a person for a moment in time happens to be resident is, I think, to distort what one really seeks to do.
The last point I want to make is that subsection (1) creates presumptions of entitlement. I believe that presumption should depend on individual adjudication,
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not on class presumption. This amendment would create a class presumption with which I am bound to say I am extremely uneasy. Therefore while I have enormous sympathy with the points that have been made, and I do not wish in any way to undermine the fervour with which people have spoken, we are in the business of asking ourselves whether particular pieces of legislation which we are being asked to authorise make sense.
Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to applaud the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for bringing this amendment back to your Lordships’ House in an improved form. I do not want this to turn into a lawyers’ fest or to give your Lordships too much pleasure in knowing that the lawyers may disagree about the matters that have just been referred to, but I would remind the House that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, told us earlier that the amendment followed interventions at an earlier stage in the passage of this Bill by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope of Craighead and Lord Judge. Both are former Supreme Court judges, one the former Lord Chief Justice and the other the former Deputy President of the Supreme Court.
I do not disagree in principle with what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble Viscount. However, we must remember that the power to pass law rests upon Parliament. This is not a court where we act upon precedent. If Parliament wishes to include a judge’s decision in the determination of a matter of law, it is open to Parliament to do so. Let us not pretend that the Government—particularly this Government—do not send for the judges when they are in an awkward position in any event. We know that that is all too common and currently being done with the most controversial Bill before these Houses: the Investigatory Powers Bill.
I therefore suggest to your Lordships that while we of course listened with enormous respect to the two noble Lords who just spoke, nevertheless what they say does not negate the merits of the debate that we have been hearing. Indeed, we have heard some very eloquent speeches dealing with those merits: for example, the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, who had an excellent article in the Guardian this morning, setting out in principle what everybody on my side of the debate might say.
I do not want to give a catalogue of the events that give rise to this debate; we heard from my noble friend Lady Nicholson in some detail. I applaud, as I am sure we all do, the extraordinary work that she has done with the charity AMAR, of which she is the chairman and founder, which has helped so many, particularly young women, affected by genocide, especially in the Middle East. She deserves great praise for that. Indeed, she and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, are responsible for bringing these very important and painful issues to the attention not just of the House, but of the country much more widely than the political class represented here and in another place.
I simply say this to your Lordships: there is no more arrogant crime than the crime of genocide. Genocide defies all decent religious standards, albeit sometimes
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in the heretical pretence of religion. Genocide offends all decent secular standards. I know of no secular state that would allow any of the horrendous practices described in the debate. Genocide rejects the proposition that there should be even any limits to the actions and cruelties committed in war. Genocide diminishes the dignity of the human race, quite simply. Surely Parliaments such as this should recognise the suffering of victims of genocide, and not merely by wringing our hands with rhetoric about those victims. Where else have they to turn to if not to Parliaments and to Governments in countries such as ours? Why are we not making the sorts of declarations that have been made, as I understand it, by the French Government and very clearly by the American Secretary of State?
The designation of crimes as “genocide” sends out a clear message, and it is not an unimportant one: it is a deterrent. Designation of genocide sends out the message that those who commit the act and are identified will one day be brought before international courts and punished for their crimes against the rest of the human race. Designation of genocide by Governments such as ours also sends out a warning to those who might be inclined to commit genocide that they will be pursued to the end of the days—to the end of their lives if necessary, when they are old and hiding from their responsibilities, as happened, for example, with the Nazi genocide.
I heard earlier in the evening—I hope that I am wrong—that Her Majesty’s Official Opposition’s position was to sit on its hands in this debate. I hope that that shameful proposition is not correct. I hope that we will not have a situation in which the party that introduced the Human Rights Act 1998 into our law will chicken out of an official vote on this amendment.
We carry out a great responsibility this evening. I hope that we will do so in a spirit that recognises the challenge that genocide presents to humankind.
Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, the issues that the tablers of this amendment have raised are so important and urgent that I am prompted to speak for the first time on the Bill. Everyone’s hearts this evening are on the same page in your Lordships’ House. Our hearts are weary of seeing the suffering on our news bulletins and we want solutions urgently. I hold the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in the highest regard, not only for their lobbying on behalf of vulnerable people, but for often placing themselves in harm’s way as they do so. They are entirely right that certain groups of people that we should have been focused on more clearly have been lost from view. However, the mechanism proposed this evening will, sadly, not ensure that the most vulnerable people are helped and with huge regret I cannot support the amendment.
First, the amendment runs the risk of taking too long to help these people, as setting up a judicial process with rules of court, et cetera, will take months. Help for these people is needed now, help that can be provided, as I will outline, through the Syrian vulnerable people scheme. As I understand the amendment, this would not just be declaring acts of genocide; what the High Court would be declaring would be a policy of
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genocide in a particular situation. Since the Second World War, only two situations have merited that declaration: Rwanda and the Srebrenica incident within the Balkans conflict. This is recognised as the crime above all crimes, to be kept special, to be kept unique and with a particular connotation.
Although we can prosecute genocide anywhere in the world, the case of Eichmann, which many noble Lords will remember, remains of its era and we have seen the development of international tribunals to try this particular crime. This amendment draws the declaration of a policy of genocide, which it took the Rwanda tribunal four years to come to, into a domestic court. That opens the way for other domestic courts to do the same and to disagree with us. It risks diluting this crime and we could end up with one domestic courts saying, “We think this is genocide”, and another saying, “This is not genocide”. The risk of politicising and putting into foreign affairs terms a policy such as genocide is grave.
I watched with care the full announcement by Secretary of State Kerry, most of which asserts the supremacy of the judicial process. I was disappointed that such a campaign in America has led, in fact, to so little. They have promised a bit more aid and that they will do some investigation of the evidence. I would like Her Majesty’s Government to deliver more than that.
Perhaps the most important reason for not supporting this amendment is that it will not only apply only to Iraq and Syria. It is, perhaps, most likely to apply, first and foremost, in Sudan, where al-Bashir stands ready to be tried at the International Criminal Court—if they could get him there—for crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of genocide. This amendment would apply to people in other countries; people might learn through social media that the UK has said that they are victims of genocide and can get asylum here and they might leave to come here. As I say, Sudan might be the first case and a determination of that nature by our courts could cause vast numbers of people to flee, not knowing whether they are number four of the 5,000 we have said we are taking or number 4,555. They will not know that; they will leave. This would be particularly dangerous today because their route is through Libya, through IS-controlled territory where they risk being killed and a much more perilous sea journey across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.
I have sat before British diaspora who are desperate for their adult sons to remain in those countries and not to travel. Often, they listen to IS footage in Libya on the internet and see what could happen to their relatives if there was any incentive for them to move. Turkey is closing down as a route and the criminal gangs are looking for a different market, or several different markets.
The movers of the amendment are right in principle. I want to return to that. I hope that I can offer a way forward. Will my noble friend the Minister please look urgently to review the criteria of the Syrian vulnerable people scheme, as Iraqi people are the victims of probably the worst postcode lottery? A century ago, Britain was involved in setting the border between Iraq and Syria, which IS just wiped out. So if you can
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satisfy the vulnerable persons criteria and are a refugee but happen to live on the wrong side of the border—if you are an Iraqi—you are not eligible for the scheme. If you live hundreds of miles away or hundreds of yards away but you happen to be Syrian, you can get safe passage to the UK. As a matter of utmost urgency will my noble friend the Minister look to expand the eligibility for the scheme so that we can offer protection virtually immediately to the Iraqis who so desperately need it? Will he also please ensure that the relevant numbers are raised to accommodate the extra people?
Will Her Majesty’s Government look at the criteria of vulnerability within the scheme? The criteria for vulnerability include women and girls at risk, refugees with disabilities, children and adolescents at risk and persons at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity but do not include one’s religion or lack of religion. I want to be clear that I am not asking for discrimination on the ground of faith. That would be wrong and inconsistent with being a Christian country. However, in the 1970s, the UK took in Ugandan Asians and did not thereby discriminate on the ground of race. But Idi Amin persecuted on the ground of race and so created vulnerability. IS is most definitely persecuting on the ground of faith and creating vulnerability. The scheme should be urgently amended to recognise this.
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (CB): My Lords, I support this amendment but think it right to note that it would involve two radical changes in the existing legal framework. First, it would involve a High Court judge deciding—no doubt subject to appeal—whether a particular group is subject to genocide. Secondly, it would enable any member of such a group to claim asylum from abroad. I have no real objection to the first of those changes. I do not share the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. In fact, it seems to me hardly necessary in the present case for a judge to be involved at all, but it might be in some future case. On all the evidence we have heard, it is pretty clear that Daesh is indeed committing genocide. If the UK Government will not say so and will not refer the matter to the United Nations, then by all means let us legislate to allow a judge to do so, if that would serve a valuable purpose. It is not necessary to go as far as establishing a case of genocide to establish a right to asylum under the 1951 refugee convention. But, of course, a ruling that an asylum seeker is indeed a member of a group subject to genocide would certainly qualify them in spades for refugee status.
I suggest that the real challenge in this proposal is the second change it would involve—namely, that under it for the very first time asylum would be able to be claimed from abroad rather than, as at present, only if the asylum seeker has somehow managed by hook or by crook to reach the shores of this country. Plainly, this change would substantially increase the numbers able to claim asylum here, and who we would then be obliged to take in. One fears and suspects that many thousands are subject to the risk of genocide. Assuming they could get to a British mission overseas—indeed, it is probably sufficient to get their application
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for asylum lodged there—that would have to be assessed, and the critical question would presumably be whether they are members of the group at risk; that addresses the point of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. If the claim succeeds, they, as refugees, would still need to get to the United Kingdom to claim sanctuary. One wonders who would arrange and achieve that. The UNHCR has been suggested, but that might involve certain logistical difficulties.
Is the sheer increase in the number of prospective asylum seekers a fatal objection to the proposal? That is the crucial question here. I am puzzled about the suggestion that those who succeed under this provision would fall within the cap of 20,000 who we are already committed to relocate over this Parliament. I cannot see how, or why, that should be required. However, the proposal is confined to those who are genuinely subject to the risk of genocide. That is, of itself, a manifestly limiting factor. Accordingly, this objection should not be regarded as fatal: we should pass this amendment.
Lord Shinkwin (Con): My Lords, I support this amendment and the excellent speeches made by other noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lord Forsyth. As we have heard, the Christians in Daesh-held territory are suffering indescribable persecution and slaughter on account of their belief in Jesus Christ. They are sacrificing their lives and suffering genocide for Christ’s sake. Yet we are not being called to make any sacrifice at all on their behalf. All your Lordships’ House is being asked to do today is bear witness to the truth than genocide is happening and to keep faith with these victims of genocide by empowering a High Court judge to determine whether a genocide is under way, and by requiring the Government to accelerate the resettlement requests of those fleeing such a genocide.
It may be almost impossible for us, as we sit in the splendour of this beautiful Chamber, to conceive of the enormity of the genocidal crimes being perpetrated thousands of miles away. It is possible that the only thing that we have in common with their situation right now is the colour of the luxurious red Benches on which we sit. It is also the colour of their blood. The amendment would help to ensure that it is not spilt in vain, that the extent of the genocide they are suffering is recognised for what it is, that refuge is given on account of it, and that the perpetrators, as we have already heard, will be punished specifically for genocide.
For Christians around the world, yesterday marked the start of Holy Week, the worst and yet the best week of Jesus’s life. By the end of it, he would be dead, yet he went to his death in full knowledge of the excruciating pain involved, because he chose to bear witness to the truth. We debate this amendment in full knowledge of the truth that genocide is being suffered, as I speak, in his holy name. We cannot stop it, but like him we can choose to bear witness to the truth.
So I say with sincere respect to my noble friend the Minister that that is why I support this amendment. I hope that many noble Lords will do likewise, united in proud defence of the freedom of conscience that surely we all cherish. Surely that is the very least we can do in the face of genocide.
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Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, the hour is very late. I shall be very brief. I find myself on this occasion in broad agreement with the interventions in this debate. The abuses in Iraq and Syria are repulsive and surely can only amount to genocide. I therefore welcome effective action in respect of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria.
I will just make two practical observations. The first refers to proposed new subsection (1), which is very widely drawn. We could at some future date find that literally millions of people qualified for the presumption that they met the qualifications for asylum in the UK. In the past five years alone, the office of the UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide has named five countries as being at risk: Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya and Ivory Coast. Any of these situations could descend into genocide in the coming years, so it follows that a blanket clause in our immigration law could prove to be a serious hostage to fortune. I am not sure how that can be dealt with. A limit of numbers is a possibility. That was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and might be a way forward on that point. But above all, it is surely essential to avoid a situation where a thoroughly well-intentioned statement sets off a wave of humanity that has reached the limits of its endurance. I leave it to the proposers to consider that point.
My other observation refers to proposed new subsection (3), which envisages British missions overseas assessing applications. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that that is a difficult road to go down; I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, had similar doubts. It is not hard to imagine a ghastly event in Sudan or somewhere leading to hundreds of claimants camping outside some of our missions. It might be possible to engage the UNHCR in the process. If it does not have that capacity, we might be able to consider, for example, sending a team of British officials deployed for this purpose in situ. They might be established somewhere appropriate, perhaps in a refugee camp near the border with the country concerned, but certainly not in a mission, which would very soon be swamped.
The practicalities clearly need some further thought and we should not overlook the point that to move away from the fundamental principle of claiming asylum in the UK is a major departure. That said, I think we must find a way to tackle this ghastly situation—to break, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, put it, the cycle of inertia.
Lord Farmer (Con): My Lords, I, too, will be brief. There can be no doubt that the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Forsyth, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Cox and Lady Kennedy, have brought an issue of the most profound gravity to our attention, and they have done so with characteristic eloquence and passion. It is essential that Parliament takes the time to consider the appalling treatment meted out to Yazidis and Christians, the threat of extinction that faces these ancient communities, and what our considered response should be to this genocide claim. What is being proposed today is that we amend primary legislation in far-reaching ways with minimal consideration and
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debate. Surely a better way forward would be to establish a specific review that does justice to the enormity of the issue that is before us today, which would then be the subject of a sufficiently lengthy debate in both Houses.
In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, cited an Early Day Motion tabled in the other place at the end of January this year, which drew attention to the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh and stated that these fell within the definition of genocide. Like the vast majority of EDMs, it received no parliamentary time at all and attracted only one more signature than a Motion on the Royal Mail’s recognition of Scotland’s history—an important issue no doubt, but thankfully not a matter of life or death in the here and now. I know some MPs never sign EDMs because they do not consider them to be an effective way of achieving change. This tells me that although awareness of the severity of this issue might be very high in present company and there are many dedicated parliamentarians working tirelessly to raise that awareness in the media and more widely, it is perhaps not yet sufficiently on the radar of Members of this or another place. Most importantly, we are a long way from establishing the settled view of Parliament on this matter.
However, regardless of whether or not our Government declare these dreadful crimes to be genocide, decisive action is required sooner rather than later. In this regard I find my noble friend Lady Berridge’s arguments about the arbitrariness of the Iraqi-Syrian border compelling, especially now that it has been trampled down by Daesh. I agree that this could give the Government clear grounds to broaden the remit of the Syrian resettlement scheme to accommodate some of these persecuted minorities who originated in Iraq. I also agree with her that such a broadening should require us to revisit the current cap of 20,000 individuals. As we have been constantly reminded throughout this short debate, we cannot play a numbers game: this is about human lives.
Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, whether this amendment is carried or not, it must be clear to a Government who refer so often to our Judeo-Christian heritage that they cannot simply stay where they are thereafter. There must be an acknowledgement of what is going on. The truth must be recognised and must be brought to the attention of the world by this country and the many others that are already committed to it.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have a couple of sentences on behalf of these Benches. This may be the first time that my thought processes have followed exactly those of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, but I had concerns about the format, if you like, of this amendment. I would much prefer to be addressing the matter on an international basis through the UN, but then I, too, found Article 8 of the convention, which provides for contracting parties to call on the UN to take action. In the light of the growing call around the world for the recognition of what is going on as genocide, it seems to me that it is absolutely right that we should take this opportunity, whatever the technicalities of the amendment.
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Lord Rosser: My Lords, no one can fail to be concerned about and moved by the appalling position of those to whom this amendment relates. There is a need to see what more can be done to help those fleeing violence and persecution and to increase safe and legal routes for refugees. We all have sympathy with what lies behind this amendment, particularly with regard to the appalling actions of ISIS—Daesh—against Yazidi women. The amendment as it stands is in our view unworkable, but we would be willing to work with the Government and others in the House to develop a scheme to present at Third Reading for these women and others persecuted on grounds of religion.
Anyone coming under the conditions referred to in proposed new subsection (1) who is already in the United Kingdom should already be able to claim asylum under the existing law and definition of a refugee. However, the amendment appears problematic in a couple of areas. It places responsibility for declaring that a genocide is taking place—and, with it, a presumption that the conditions for asylum in the UK have been met—with the High Court rather than with an international body, which is a departure from existing practice. We are not convinced that this power should rest with domestic courts.
The amendment also allows people to apply for asylum outside the UK, which is again a significant departure from existing law and would allow unknown numbers to apply as, as the amendment sets out, there should be no discrimination in dealing with such applications based on,
“national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
As a lesser point, there also needs to be more clarity about how the process set out in the amendment would work in practice, how applications would be processed, by whom and where.
While we all want to do more for vulnerable people fleeing persecution and genocide—
Lord Carlile of Berriew: The noble Lord is telling us that the Labour Party agrees in principle with the feelings behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Is it not a bit supine for the Labour Party to say that but not put forward an improved amendment of its own if it really seeks to say what we have just heard with full integrity?
Lord Rosser: I do not share the noble Lord’s view; I am setting out our view of the amendment and have referred to two specific issues, which do not seem to me unimportant. I can only note that he holds a different view.
While we all want to do more for vulnerable people fleeing persecution and genocide—such a debate needs to take place—we are unconvinced that the amendment as drafted represents the best way to do that. It entails a significant change in practice and procedure, and there needs to be much greater consideration than, inevitably, there has been of the practicalities and impact of what is being proposed. For these reasons, if the mover, having heard the Government’s response, decides to test the opinion of the House, we will not be able to lend our support.
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The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con):My Lords, no one could but be moved by the strength of feeling and concern that has been expressed in this House with regard to events in the Middle East. Several of your Lordships have eloquently articulated the terrible threats that Daesh or ISIS poses to the populations of the Middle East. Who could gainsay the ghastly evidence of some of the events that have been reported?
All of us want to do everything that we can to support the victims of such terrible violence. All of us want to alleviate the suffering experienced in Syria and Iraq at present. But to do that, our primary priority must be to secure an end to the conflict in Syria and Iraq, in order that people can return to their communities and their lives. That is what this Government have been committed to achieving, and I shall not repeat the points made earlier about the steps taken in that regard.
I urge your Lordships to read the amendment to see what, on the face of it, it is intended to do. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, finished by saying that the intention was to bring those individuals responsible to justice. That, with respect, is not the objective of the amendment. Indirectly, it might achieve that, but let us remember to emphasise individuals. We cannot bring Daesh to justice; we must identify the individuals within ISIS and Daesh who have been responsible for these terrible crimes. That is not the objective of this amendment at all.
The amendment deals with three matters. Essentially, proposed new subsection (1) is a presumption that if a person is a member of a certain grouping they have been a victim of genocide. Secondly, there is an adjudication and, thirdly, there is an application process by which an individual who is a member of a group that has been subject to genocide can secure asylum in the United Kingdom but, more importantly, can secure that by means of an application form outside the United Kingdom—a unique and quite unprecedented step in the context of refugee law. Indeed, I would respectfully adopt the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, when he said that he had much more difficulty with the substance of the amendment. With respect, so have we, because if we look at the substance of the amendment, we have to consider the background to what is being addressed.
There are two entirely distinct conventions here. There is what is shortly termed the genocide convention, which is concerned with the identification and prosecution of those guilty of the terrible crime of genocide. Then there is the refugee convention, which is concerned with the circumstances in which a country such as the United Kingdom has an obligation to those who are defined—
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords—
Lord Keen of Elie: I shall finish the sentence, if I may—to those who are defined as refugees. The two are entirely distinct. Under—
Lord Carlile of Berriew: The noble and learned Lord said that he was going to give way at the end of the sentence. I detected a full stop. With all his legal
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experience, he surely knows that numerous applications relating to residence in the United Kingdom are made from outside the United Kingdom. For example, visas are applied for outside the United Kingdom. What is so unique about extending that process?
Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Lord. I was aware of that—and, of course, the distinction lies in international law. Our obligation towards asylum seekers arises under the refugee convention, and it is in accordance with that that we deal with these applications. I shall elaborate on why that poses such severe problems in the context of the amendment.
Under our own Immigration Rules we have provision for those who enjoy refugee status, which includes those who are the victims or potential victims of genocide. But of course it also extends beyond that category to those who are the victims or potential victims of persecution—for example, political persecution, which would not be covered by this provision. If we look at the provisions of the refugee convention, we find it explicitly stated at Article 3 that in dealing with applications for asylum there will be no discrimination on grounds such as nationality, ethnicity or religion. Indeed, that is reinforced by Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
While I understand the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, to see some help extended to the Christians in Syria, and the Yazidis as well, the reality is that if we had this provision in law we would have no right to discriminate between Christians and Yazidis. We know that in fact the activities of ISIS and Daesh in Syria and Iraq are directed not just at the Christian or Yazidi communities but at the Shia Muslim communities within these countries, at the Kurds and even at the Alawites. All those would also be in a position of complaining that they belonged to a group that was potentially the subject of genocidal acts, torture or violence.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: The Yazidi are in a different position, which is why I raised them particularly. They are perceived by ISIL as not being one of the Abrahamic religions. Their religion predates even Judaism. As a result, ISIL sees it as something totally inimical to being human and as something other. That is why it feels quite at liberty to diminish this people to nothing. That is why it thinks that that is permissible, and that is why it is genocide.
Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Baroness, but the reality is that under the refugee convention and the European convention we could not in legislation discriminate between particular communities, such as the Yazidis, the Christians or the Shia Muslims. It goes further than that because we know that at present there are something like 4.8 million Syrians displaced in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. It goes even further than that because, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, observed much earlier in the debate on this Bill, according to the United Nations there are something like 19.5 million refugees in the world at present, whether they be in Darfur, Burma, the Middle East or elsewhere. The figure I had was 20 million, but in the
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context of such a catastrophe, perhaps 500,000 does not make an enormous difference. The reality is that this amendment would, on the face of it, open the United Kingdom to immigration by all 19.5 million people who could claim to be in that position. Noble Lords may scoff, but that is why it is so important that we examine the implications of the legislation proposed. Indeed, I have only to cite the example of Germany to point out the consequences of unintended action.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: Will the noble and learned Lord point out where in the amendment it specifies anything about Yazidis or Christians? The amendment says that if there is evidence of genocide, that evidence can be laid before a High Court justice for the justice to determine whether there is genocide. Will he also say what is non-discriminatory about the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme in which we single out a group of people and say that we will give them special protection and support, quite rightly in my view, but impose a cap, as we do, by saying there will be only 20,000? Is this not scaremongering of the worst order?
Lord Keen of Elie: With respect to the noble Lord, it is nothing of the sort. On the last point, the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme does not discriminate on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity or religion and therefore does not contravene either Article 3 of the refugee convention or Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That is where the distinction lies.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): I know the Minister is trying to make progress, but he said that the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme does not discriminate against nationalities, but it does. The key is in the name. They are Syrian. It does not apply to Iraqis.
Lord Keen of Elie: The noble Lord makes the point, and I accept that the scheme applies only to Syrians in the context of Syria being the area that is subject to the scheme, but it does not distinguish on the grounds of ethnicity or religion in that way.
I mentioned numbers a moment ago. No country in the world has an open-door immigration policy of the kind proposed by this amendment. More particularly, no country in the world has an open-door immigration policy that would involve persons who were not strictly refugees under the convention being able to apply in the place of their residence for asylum in the UK. It has always been the practice that an asylum seeker is a person who presents themselves in a safe country and seeks to establish refugee status. What is suggested in this amendment, as I read it, is that a person from within Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey or elsewhere would be entitled to approach a British consulate or embassy and make an application for asylum in the UK from that point. That would not be limited to the Middle East, either; it would apply across the world because, again, you could not distinguish between one set of refugees and another. That would not be possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, introduced the idea that somehow this amendment was subject to a cap. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, observed, though, that is simply not the case, and it is difficult to
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conceive of how it could be. Still, let us suppose that it was going to be subject to a cap of, say, 5,000 applications. How would that be dealt with? Are we to send 5,000 visas to the consulate in Baghdad? Are we then to say that first come are first served—that those who arrive and apply can have one while those who arrive too late cannot? With great respect to your Lordships, that is not an immigration policy, it is a lottery, and that is not what we are about. We are trying to achieve an objective and fair result.
When we address this, we have to remember also that refugee status applies not only to those who may have been, or threatened with being, the victims of genocide but to those who have been the subject of, or threatened with, persecution. On what basis can we rationally and reasonably distinguish between those two groups when they all constitute refugees?
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My noble and learned friend is making quite heavy weather of the inadequacies of the amendment. Can he tell us—he has had quite a lot of time to think about this because a similar amendment was tabled in Committee—what exactly the Government are going to do for those Christians and other groups who are facing genocide?
Lord Keen of Elie: I believe that we are already doing all of that. This was addressed by my noble friend Lord Bates earlier when he spoke of the steps that we are taking regarding diplomatic efforts to try to secure peace in the Middle East. He spoke of the Government delivering a robust and comprehensive strategy to defeat Daesh in Syria and Iraq as a member of the global coalition of 66 countries. He spoke of the fact that there was effectively a cessation of hostilities on 27 February that we will build upon and hope to develop. He spoke of the fact that we have pledged over £2.3 billion, our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis, which is delivering vital assistance to refugees in neighbouring countries on the ground right now. We are also working through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with three schemes—the Gateway Protection Programme, the Mandate Refugee Programme and the Syrian resettlement scheme—in order to reach out to the most vulnerable people at risk, such as women and children. All that is being done.
We have to be realistic about what we can and cannot achieve. What we cannot achieve is a policy whereby 4.8 million or more people are invited to make an application at a local level for a visa to bring them to the UK. We know that we could not cope with the consequences of such a policy, and we know the potential disaster that could follow from attempting to impose one. We know that at the end of the day we would be expressing hope that could not be delivered. We would be expressing hope that these people might be helped when in reality we knew that their prospects would actually be dashed to pieces on the rocks of reality. We could never cope with such an immigration policy. I say to your Lordships in conclusion—
Lord Elton: My Lords, before my noble and learned friend sits down, he has heard considerable argument in favour of the Government using the opportunity
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pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, to bring before the Security Council a proposal that this be recognised as genocide. Can he tell us what he is proposing to do about that?
Lord Keen of Elie: I am obliged to the noble Lord. Respectfully, it appears to me that the proper course of action in those circumstances, where we are putting to one side an amendment that even my noble friend Lord Forsyth would appear impliedly to accept is not workable, the appropriate way forward would be to consider a Motion of this House, directed to Her Majesty’s Government as to how they should address or not address the issues that pertain here with regard to whether there has been genocide. Noble Lords have heard already what the present government policy is. The Government believe that recognition of genocide should be a matter for international courts and that it should be a legal rather than a political determination. That remains the position.
Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): Is the Minister saying that such a—
Lord Keen of Elie: I have not given way.
In conclusion, this amendment does not even address the objective set out by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Although I fully understand his concerns about what is going on, the amendment creates a mirage of false hope. It might salve our conscience, but it will not solve the problem. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw it.
Lord Lea of Crondall: Before the Minister sits down, if such a Motion was put forward, would it have the Government’s support?
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, ended on an interesting note, which the noble Lord just questioned him about: if a Motion were placed before your Lordships’ House, which presumably would have to be done by the Government, because such procedures are not open to—
Lord Keen of Elie: If I may, with respect, correct the noble Lord, the Motion would not be required to be from the Government but could be laid by any Member of this House.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: Would the noble and learned Lord like to remind me of the last time a Motion of that kind was tabled on the Order Paper and selected for debate in your Lordships’ House without the support of the usual channels and the Front Bench?
Lord Keen of Elie: I am not aware of the date when that was last done, but, as the noble Lord observed, it would be a matter of securing the support of the usual channels.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, it seems that we are back into the circular arguments that we have been having. The last time I put the question to the Government and asked whether they had any intention of submitting
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evidence of genocide in Iraq and Syria to the Security Council and through it to the International Criminal Court, they said:
“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yezidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.
This argument just goes on and on. That is why, in February, I and other noble Lords from across the House tabled the Motion in Committee. Normally when a Motion is tabled in Committee, the Government respond by saying, “We will discuss with the movers of the Motion ways in which we can take it forward”. Although I had a meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Bates, it was interesting that the first comment of one of the officials who was present was, “We have never done this before”, as though that was an argument for never doing it in the future. I am disappointed that this evening neither the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, nor the Front Bench opposite have offered an opportunity to discuss how an amendment might be framed that could find favour with the Government. It seemed to me from what the noble and learned Lord said that under no circumstances would any such move be countenanced.
I was shocked when the noble and learned Lord started to express numbers that were in the realms of fantasy—the idea that 19 million people in the world might take the opportunity. It would be impossible to do that. First, a genocide would have to have been declared by the High Court. It would then have to go before the Government, who would have to decide how they wanted to treat it, and they could then impose exactly the kind of cap that they have imposed in the case of the numbers of people being admitted to this country under the Syrian vulnerable persons scheme. Therefore there is no question that this amendment would open those kinds of floodgates. As the Minister said, that was not the intention of the movers and it would not be the effect of the Motion. Surely, therefore, we now have an opportunity to do something about this. If the Government had said, “We will take this away and look at it between now and Third Reading”, I certainly would have responded positively to that; or we can pass this amendment, and between now and Third Reading the Government can either amend it or send it to those in another place and let them decide how they want to deal with the issue.
Under the 1948 genocide convention, we have three duties. We have a duty to prevent, a duty to punish and a duty to protect. There are two strands in the amendment. The first is to bring about the punishment of the offenders, and the second is to help some of those people. We cannot help everyone; I recognise that. But no one is more vulnerable than someone who is the subject of genocide. We have heard the speeches of the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy, Lady Nicholson and Lady Cox, and we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and many other noble Lords who have set forward the case that genocide is indeed under way and we should therefore do something about it.
I do not claim that the amendment is perfect. I do claim that we cannot keep on going round and round in these circles. Although I recognise that I may well be in a minority this evening, it is better to be in a minority, say what one believes to be right and seek
21 Mar 2016 : Column 2179
the opinion of the House. I will do that in a moment, because I agreed with the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chelmsford, when he said that it is our duty to gather up the fragments. I agreed with my noble friend Lady Cox when she said that we should not be silent in the face of evil; with the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, when she said that we should break the cycle of inertia; and with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, when she asked why we are last in coming forward. We have the opportunity to break the cycle of inertia this evening, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.
Division on Amendment 121
Contents 111; Not-Contents 148.
Amendment 121 disagreed.
Division No. 2
Allan of Hallam, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Anderson of Swansea, L.
Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.
Berkeley of Knighton, L.
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.
Bowles of Berkhamsted, B.
Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.
Bruce of Bennachie, L.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Cox, B. [Teller]
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Foster of Bath, L.
Garden of Frognal, B.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Green of Deddington, L.
Healy of Primrose Hill, B.
Hylton, L. [Teller]
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lister of Burtersett, B.
McFall of Alcluith, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Moore of Lower Marsh, L.
Morris of Handsworth, L.
Murphy of Torfaen, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Palmer of Childs Hill, L.
Purvis of Tweed, L.
Rees of Ludlow, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Smith of Newnham, B.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stoneham of Droxford, L.
Taylor of Goss Moor, L.
21 Mar 2016 : Column 2180
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wallace of Tankerness, L.
Willis of Knaresborough, L.
Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arbuthnot of Edrom, L.
Ashton of Hyde, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Barker of Battle, L.
Bottomley of Nettlestone, B.
Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridges of Headley, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Carrington of Fulham, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chisholm of Owlpen, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
De Mauley, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Evans of Bowes Park, B.
Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Feldman of Elstree, L.
Fellowes of West Stafford, L.
Gardiner of Kimble, L. [Teller]
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gilbert of Panteg, L.
Hague of Richmond, L.
Hamilton of Epsom, L.
Harding of Winscombe, B.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Hodgson of Abinger, B.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holmes of Richmond, L.
Howard of Lympne, L.
Howard of Rising, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Jenkin of Kennington, B.
Keen of Elie, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Leigh of Hurley, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
McIntosh of Pickering, B.
Morris of Bolton, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
O’Neill of Gatley, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Porter of Spalding, L.
Prior of Brampton, L.
Scott of Bybrook, B.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Shackleton of Belgravia, B.
Shephard of Northwold, B.
Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.
Smith of Hindhead, L.
Sterling of Plaistow, L.
Stowell of Beeston, B.
Taylor of Holbeach, L. [Teller]
21 Mar 2016 : Column 2181
Williams of Trafford, B.
Young of Cookham, L.
Younger of Leckie, V.
House of Lords debate Immigration Bill -victims of genocide. -Press Association report
Later, the Government came under cross-party pressure to recognise so-called
Islamic State (IS) was committing genocide against Christians and others, while
offering victims possible sanctuary in Britain.
The move came after US Secretary of State John Kerry determined that IS was
committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Lord Alton said massacres, torture, kidnappings and rape targeted deliberately
for religious reasons must be recognised as genocide.
Under his amendment, a High Court judge would examine the evidence and
determine whether IS’s actions amounted to genocide and require the Government
to take “concrete steps” to protect victims and bring the perpetrators to
He said it would establish a mechanism to determine whether acts of genocide
were being perpetrated and afford victims with appropriate consideration when it
came to asylum applications.
It wouldn’t oblige the Government to take in any more refugees than it had
already committed to but would “prioritise” victims of genocide.
Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said something must be
done to tackle the “appalling atrocities” being inflicted on Christians in
Pointing to these “harrowing tales,” he asked how it was that the European
Parliament and US Congress could take a “firm view” while the UK Government
was “hiding behind legalistic arguments preventing us offering sanctuary to
people who are facing real persecution”.
He said recognising the situation as an “appalling genocide” would enable
Britain to “stretch out a hand to these people and offer them sanctuary”.
Lord Forsyth added: “How much longer are we prepared to stand by and not
acknowledge what is going on, which is a systematic attempt to destroy
Christianity throughout the Middle East by people using medieval methods of
In an emotional speech, Liberal Democrat Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne
cited cases of rape and kidnap against Yazidi girls and said their testimony had
gone all over the globe.
She asked what had happened to “British values” and demanded “British
action” to tackle those perpetrating such crimes.
Leading QC and independent crossbencher Lord Pannick said there was
overwhelming evidence that acts of genocide were being carried out by Daesh
(another term for IS) and it was “shameful” the Government wasn’t prepared to
For the Opposition, Lord Rosser said he had sympathy with the views of those
calling for action, but the amendment was “unworkable”.
He said Labour was willing to work with others in developing a scheme to help
victims of violence and persecution for consideration at the Bill’s later third
Advocate General for Scotland Lord Keen of Elie, opposing the amendment, said
it proposed a “lottery” when ministers were trying to achieve a “fair and
Lord Keen said no other country in the world had an “open door immigration
policy” of the kind being suggested, which could bring millions to the UK.
The Government believed that recognition of genocide should be a matter for
international courts and legal rather than political determination.
“This amendment creates a mirage of false hope,” he said. “It might salve
our conscience but won’t solve the problem.”
Lord Alton’s amendment was rejected by 148 votes to 111, Government majority 37
Following the vote Lord Alton said that the cross party group – supported in the House of Lords vote by former Conservative Cabinet Ministers Nigel Lawson and Michael Forsyth as well as former Law Lords, bishops and senior figures from the law and politics – would continue their efforts to have the campaign of violence against Christians and Yazidis recognized as a genocide.
He said that “it was disappointing that both the Government and Opposition declined to respond to the powerful calls made from around the Chamber. When historians come to consider the lamentable failure of both Parliament and Government to speak and act they will surely conclude that we failed to recognize the crime above all crimes. This should not have been a day for party whips and scaremongering arguments – such as being flooded with genocide victims – none of which brings Parliament credit. This was a day when Britain neither salved its conscience or offered practical help but simply chose to look the other way. “
March 11th 2016: Peter Kerridge and Premier Radio launch genocide campaign:
March 10th 2016:
March 5th 2016: 1192 UN CONVENTION ON THE PREVENTION AND PUNISHMENT OF GENOCIDE
Sir David Amess
John Mc Nally
Sir Alan Meale
Fiona Mactaggart Jim Shannon Natalie McGarry
That this House welcomes the recent resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the recent motion of the European Parliament each of which identifies the slaughter by Daesh of Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as the genocide that it is; notes the recent statements by Hillary Clinton, by leading Republican contenders for the US Presidency, and by His Holiness Pope Francis that the targeting of those communities is genocide; observes that an amendment was recently proposed to the Immigration Bill in the House of Lords to place upon the Government a duty to act to protect vulnerable individuals from genocide, and looks forward to that amendment being moved again at a future stage of the Bill; reminds the Prime Minister of the UK’s duties under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to act both directly and with others to bring this killing to an end and to bring its perpetrators to trial and punishment; expresses its frustration at the reluctance of Ministers to present evidence and to work to create a consensus at the UN that the killing is genocide; and observes that such inaction risks bringing shame on our nation and the reputation of the Government into international disrepute.
Follow this link to all posts on genocide against Christians and Yazidi- including the Resolutions of the Council of Europe and the European parliament:
February 18th Letter from Leading UK Lawyers and Human Rights Campaigners – including the former Lord Chancellor – to the Prime Minister calling for the British Government to declare the atrocities committed against Christians and Yazidis as a genocide.
Letter to PM_Genocide 18 Feb 2016
Rt Hon David Cameron MP
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA
18 February 2016
Dear Prime Minister,
Genocide perpetrated by Daesh/ISIS against minorities
We write further to the letter of 21 December 2015 in which 75 members of both Houses wrote to you regarding the atrocities unfolding in the Middle East.
On 9 February 2016, replying to the oral question as to whether the Government would condemn the actions of Daesh/ISIS in the Middle East as genocide, the Earl of Courtown confirmed that Her Majesty’s Government would not take a view on whether genocide was occurring in the Middle East, as such a decision was a matter for the“international judicial system” and not governments or other non-judicial bodies. Furthermore, the request to take the matter to the UN Security Council was left unanswered (HL Deb 9 Feb 2016, Cols 2119-2120).
Prime Minister, we urge you to revisit this position for the sake of tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities who are currently subject to acts of genocide in the Middle East.
As a signatory to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the United Kingdom has an obligation under international law to“prevent and punish” acts of genocide. In order to take decisive action to prevent genocide, the very first step must be recognition that genocide is in fact taking place. In the light of horrific and overwhelming evidence emanating from the region, refusing to recognize the current acts as genocide begs the question, for what reason is the United Kingdom a party to the Genocide Convention?
Moreover, Her Majesty’s Government proposes that such decisions be made by the “international judicial system.” Yet what is the mechanism for engaging this system?
As Syria and Iraq are not parties to the Rome Statute, the only way in which the International Criminal Court can investigate and prosecute acts of genocide is with a referral from Syria or Iraq, which at this moment appears unlikely, or with a referral from the UN Security Council, of which the United Kingdom is a prominent and permanent member. This was made clear in a Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, on 8 April 2015.
Therefore, even if it is accepted that a recognition of genocide should only be made by the “international judicial system” – a position not shared by many of our European neighbours – the starting point for such action must come from the members of the UN Security Council, including the United Kingdom. Moreover, regardless of any authoritative judicial decision, there is nothing to prevent Her Majesty’s Government forming and acting upon its own view.
We therefore ask Her Majesty’s Government to reconsider its position and to clarify why it operates a policy of refusing to recognize acts of genocide, when so many other nations do not?
We further ask what action Her Majesty’s Government plans to take through its preferred means, the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court?
Lastly, we respectfully ask you to consider the concluding words of Fatou Bensouda’s statement of 8 April 2015:
“As Prosecutor of the ICC, I stand ready to play my part, in an independent and impartial manner, in accordance with the legal framework of the Rome statute.”
In order for the international judicial system to play its part, Her Majesty’s Government must first act.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Lord Alton of Liverpool
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or belief
And the following signatories:
Lord Brennan QC
Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE
Baroness Kennedy QC
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC CBE
Lord Mackay of Clashfern
Lord Pannick QC
Follow this link to all posts on genocide against Christians and Yazidi- including the Resolutions of the Council of Europe and the European parliament:
The Nazi destruction of stolen art was an act of gratuitous violence against Europe’s cultural heritage, undertaken in service to a demented ideology—the corollary, in the field of culture, of the far more wicked Nazi slaughter of Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, the mentally ill, and all those who fell under the category of lebensunwertes Leben: “life unworthy of life.” Similarly gratuitous destruction of ancient cultural centers and artifacts is now underway wherever the black flag of the Islamic State, ISIS, is raised in Iraq and Syria. And so is another genocide, this time of Christians. http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/02/isis-genocide-and-us George WeigelDistinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies Ethics and Public Policy Center
Nadia Murad’s mother and six brothers were murdered
Jack Hill/ The Times
- Nadia Murad’s mother and six brothers were murdered Jack Hill/ The TimesPublished at 12:01AM, February 22 2016
- Elhanan Miller
Nearly 3,500 Yazidi women and children are being held in northern Iraq and Syria by Islamic State according to a woman who was captured by the group and traded as a sex slave.
Nadia Murad, 22, has become the face of Yazidi suffering, touring cities to lobby for international protection for her people, who she says are experiencing a genocide at the hands of Isis. Her captors told her that their goal was to “destroy Yazidi identity”, she said. She addressed the UN security council in December and has met President Sisi of Egypt in Cairo.
Isis leaders have given manuals to their fighters encouraging the enslavement of the unmarried women. The militant group considers the ancient religion heretical. In pre-war Iraq there were about 600,000 Kurdish-speaking Yazidis, less than 2 per cent of the country’s population.
In August 2014 Ms Murad was rounded up along with other unmarried Yazidi women when Isis fighters entered her village of Koju in northeast Iraq. They gathered 170 villagers in a school, separating men from women. The men were loaded on to trucks and driven to the edge of town.
“We heard gunfire and approached the windows to see,” she said. The men were assembled in groups and shot. “I walked away, I just couldn’t watch it happening.”
By the end of that day Ms Murad’s mother and six brothers had been executed. She was taken by bus to Mosul with the other unmarried women and put on display in a room for Isis fighters to claim. “Hundreds of men entered the room and started picking girls,” she said. “Women were screaming, losing consciousness. They grabbed the girls and took them away.
“When we asked them why they were doing this, they told us we were sabaya [prisoners of war]. I had learnt about this in history class but couldn’t believe it still existed.”
An obese fighter chose Ms Murad but fearing his violence she fled to a smaller man, grabbed his trousers and begged him to have her instead. “He agreed and told the fat one, ‘I’ve chosen this girl yesterday, I’m taking her’,” she said.
Ms Murad was taken to a religious court where she was taught prayers and forcibly converted to Islam. Raped and traded from one man to another over the course of weeks, she finally gave her captors the slip and sought refuge with a local family in Mosul. The father gave her his wife’s identity card and dressed her in a burqa before driving her through Isis checkpoints to Kirkuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan. “My photo, taken at the Islamic court, was displayed at the checkpoints,” she said. “Had they checked me I would have been discovered.”
She spent months in a refugee camp before receiving asylum in Germany last September as part of a government scheme to take in 1,000 Yazidi refugees.
Today 11 of Ms Murad’s relatives are still being held by the Islamist group. Her 12-year-old nephew Malik, captured by Isis with his mother in Koju, was taken to Syria and is now undergoing military training in Raqqa.
Malik’s captors allow him to send voice messages to his family informing them that he is all right. “They’ve brainwashed him,” she said. “We’re afraid to tell him to run away.”
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