Genocide Bill introduced. Russian Ambassador calls for international law to protect ethnic and religious minorities.Crisis in Aleppo. Latest Government replies and Boris Johnson’s genocide Statement. Nina Shea on falling for IS propaganda about Christians – and plight of minorities fleeing genocide.

David Alton BBC file photo

‘We have no voice’: Christians in Jordan 2 years after fleeing N. Iraq

Published: Aug. 5, 2016 by Abigail Frymann Rouch

https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2016/08/4578750/

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Questions for Written Answer 

Tabled on 18 July and due for answer by 1 August.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to participate in the conference about the attacks on Yazidis, Christians and others by ISIS organised by the US State Department in Washington DC on 29 July; if so, who will represent them and whether whilst attending that conference they will explain why they have not supported the genocide declarations passed by the House of Commons and the US Congress.   HL1254

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they now recognise that a genocide is underway against minorities in Syria and Iraq; and whether the opinion set out in The Sunday Telegraph on 27 March that ISIS “are engaged in what can only be called genocide of the poor Yazidis” by the new Foreign Secretary reflects their official position.   HL1255

Early Day Motion 346 Tabled in the House of Commons

  • RECOGNITION OF GENOCIDE BY DAESH
  • Date tabled:07.2016
  • Primary sponsor: Bruce, Fiona
  • That this House expresses profound concern that, despite voting 279 in favour and none against the motion calling on the Government to refer genocidal atrocities of Daesh to the United Nations Security Council on 14 April 2016, still, no such referral has been made; recalls the words of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in an article in the Telegraph on 27 March 2016, that “Daesh 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”; and calls on the Government to ensure that the unanimous will of Parliament is implemented with urgency.

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http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/07/21/falling-for-isis-propaganda-about-christians/

Falling for ISIS Propaganda about Christians

 NINA SHEA

 

An influential international body endorses the discredited claim that ISIS wants to protect Christians—not commit genocide against them.

That Middle Eastern Christians—along with Yazidis and others—face genocide by ISIS was officially recognized earlier this year in a designation of the U.S. Secretary of State, and in resolutions of both Houses of Congress. Yet, a prominent international voice is now denying this, asserting that ISIS, rather than aiming to eradicate Christians, offers to protect and respect them through a traditional Islamic tax option, or jizya. These findings seem preposterous to anyone familiar with ISIS’s worldview—recall the 2015 ISIS videos of its beheadings of the Coptic Orthodox and the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in Libya. Nevertheless, they are gaining traction to the detriment of the affected Christian communities and to the world’s understanding of ISIS’s ideology.

 

In a June 15 report concerning ISIS’s genocide in Iraq’s Nineveh Province, a small but highly influential international group, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, insists that ISIS does not intend to destroy the Christian community, which would mean that, under the genocide convention, the terror group has not waged genocide on that minority. The report confidently declares that ISIS unconditionally recognizes Christians’ “right to exist as Christians,” including those within its territory, “as long as they pay thejizya tax,” because, it suggests, the terror group respects Christians (and presumably Jews) as “People of the Book.” Another unsubstantiated and insupportable claim is that there are “Christian communities still living in ISIS-controlled territory.” The report even denies that the ISIS attacks against the Christian minority are religious, asserting instead a political motivation for its violence against that minority—to punish them for getting too close to “non-aligned forces.”

 

Apart from its footnote-free, summary conclusion, the Commission report, entitled “They came to destroy”: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis, is silent on the Christians. Here is the conclusion in its entirety:

 

While the Christian communities still living in ISIS-controlled territory live difficult and often precarious existences, are viewed with suspicion, and are vulnerable to attack if ISIS perceive they are seeking protection from non-aligned forces, their right to exist as Christians within any Islamic state existing at any point in time is recognised as long as they pay the jizya tax: Under ISIS’s radical interpretation of Islam, however, it is impermissible for Yazidis to live as Yazidis inside its so-called caliphate because they are not People of the Book.

 

As it pertains to the Christians, this conclusion is demonstrably false. No one denies that the Yazidis face ISIS genocide but the idea that “Christians and Jews” do not because they have ISIS’s respect as “People of the Book” first surfaced in a report by the U.S. Holocaust Museum genocide prevention office during thedebate leading up to the official U.S. genocide designation last winter and was refuted by the evidence then. Its adoption by the Commission now gives what is essentially unexamined ISIS propaganda new currency in international circles, with significant implications.

 

Internationally, the Commission is considered a highly respected authority. It was established in 2011 by the United Nations Council on Human Rights to advise the world’s preeminent human-rights body. It counts among its four commissioners such notables as Karen Koning AbuZayd, an American who served for as Deputy Commissioner General of UNRWA, a controversial UN body for Palestinian refugees with a reputation, including under her leadership, of abetting Holocaust denial and Hamas terror, but which allowed her to obtain the rank of UN Under Secretary General of the UN.

 

Already the research library of the British Parliament has cited the Commission as its principal source on the plight of Christians in ISIS’s territory, and adopted the Commission’s conclusion in the library’s July 15, 2016 briefing paper on “Religious Persecution in the Middle East.” If allowed to stand unchallenged, the Commission’s conclusion can be anticipated to influence policymaking within and outside the United Nations.

 

A review of the evidence and interviews with the Christian leaders directly involved reveals that ISIS’ claims of a jizya option are a deception and a propaganda ploy. ISIS’s demands for payments, which it calls “jizya,” are actually examples of extortion. Under traditional Islam, there was a conceptual distinction between the two that made an enormous difference for the survival non-Muslim minorities.

 

Under what is called the Pact of Omar (named after a 7th-century Caliph), there was an arrangement for coexistence with Jews and Christians as respected “People of the Book.” Men or their community paid a progressive tax, or jizya, in exchange for the protection of their families’ lives and property and for their religious rights. They did not have religious freedom, were harshly discriminated against, and were compelled to adhere to Muslim mores in ways would be seen today as flagrant human-rights violations. Yet for 1,300 years, from the Muslim conquest of the region in the 7th century until the mid- 19th, Christianity was practiced and perpetuated in this region under such arrangements.

 

ISIS has never offered a traditional jizya option to any of these Christians, at any time. Neither protection nor religious rights are assured under the pseudo-caliphate of the Islamic State. Today there is a complete absence anywhere in ISIS-controlled territory of functioning churches, active clergy, and intact Christian communities. As shown below, in the three major areas—Nineveh, Raqqa and Qaryatayn—where ISIS claims to have “offered a jizya option,” the offer has always, within a short time, been followed by the rape, murder, kidnapping, enslavement, and dispossession of Christians—all acts evidencing the crime of genocide.

 

Nineveh Province, Iraq

 

On July 17, 2014, twelve days before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his caliphate from Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province, ISIS first raised thejizya issue in Iraq. The group summoned Mosul’s Christian leaders to the city’s civic center purportedly to set out its demands. The Reverend Emanuel Adelkello, a priest with the Syriac Catholic Church (the largest in Northern Iraq) had direct dealings with ISIS on behalf of the Christian community. He wrote to me that the Christian leaders throughout Nineveh consulted among themselves and decided it was a “trap.” Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshi wrote that it required too great a leap of faith: They could “never trust Daesh [members] no matter how many good intentions they try to show.”

 

Reverend Adelkello states they were specifically fearful that ISIS intended to “keep women there so that they could be taken freely by the ISIS fighters [since they] had made public statements that according to the Koran it was their right to take the Christian women as they pleased.” He writes that the Christians also “believed they would likely be killed if they showed up.” None did.

 

ISIS then broadcasted from mosque loudspeakers an ultimatum to the Christians: Leave by July 19 or face death or forced conversion to Islam. The Archbishop says that ISIS also spread the “lie” that he had signed a jizya agreement with ISIS. He believes this was done to deceive Christians into staying in order to hold them for ransom and sexual abuse.

 

Virtually all the Christians who could do so fled. In Mosul, ISIS destroyed or shut all 45 churches, confiscated Christian homes—which they had already marked with the red letter “N” for Nazarene—and manned checkpoints to steal possessions and cars from the fleeing Christians. A Sunni imam of Mosul who protested their treatment was killed.

 

Following an ISIS blitzkrieg, the terror-driven mass exodus of Christians was repeated less than three weeks later throughout the rest of Nineveh Province. ISIS made no further jizya announcements in Iraq. The Holocaust Museum report recounts an interview with one Nineveh Christian man, who said he tried to pay jizya so that he could stay with his businesses but ISIS refused, confiscating his businesses after he fled.

 

The Commission of Inquiry characterized those Christians who didn’t make it out of Nineveh as having chosen to live under ISIS and pay jizya. The Christians on the scene refute this and describe a dire situation. Only 25 to 50 Christians, nearly all reported to be elderly or suffering from infirmities that prevented them from making the trek out, remained behind in Mosul. They are now barred from leaving. Church leaders are adamant that these Christians don’t pay jizya; ISIS has robbed them of all their wealth and otherwise fails to protect or respect them.

 

The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, who was among those deported from Mosul, is categorical in asserting that no Christian community, or even family, remains in Mosul to pay jizya, and disputes Kurdish media reports that families remain in the city and are paying an annual jizya of $170. On May 11, 2016, the Patriarchate said:

 

There are no more Christian families in Mosul…only a few individuals who were unable to escape…. Fifty disabled Christians are left at a medical facility because they were unable to escape…[and] it has been impossible so far to rescue them. Some Christians abducted by Daesh [ISIS] are still being held, but no family.

 

Assyrian Iraqi parliamentarian Yonadam Kanna agrees and adds that elderly Christians who stayed were forcibly converted. The Iraqi Chaldean priest Reverend Douglas Bazi, who aids refugees in Erbil, says that one Mosul family with disabled members was told they could remain Christian if each family member paid $8,000, each month, which was so exorbitant they could not exercise the “option.” Other exiled Church leaders report that the Mosul Christians are now destitute, starving and dying from neglect, isolated in their houses. Needless to say, they can’t go to church, since none remains.

 

When in the first two weeks of August 2014 ISIS stormed the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain, there were several thousand Christians who didn’t evacuate in time and they were shown no mercy.

 

An unknown number of the very young and very old died during this escape and, in the panic, were left where they fell. Others, ISIS killed outright. Washington’s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told me that he spoke with an Iraqi Christian woman, now displaced in Kurdistan, who witnessed jihadists crucifying her husband on their home’s front door. A Sunni tribesman told of the fate of one senior left behind, an 80-year-old Nineveh Christian woman whom ISIS burned alive last year for not following its sharia.

 

Aggregate numbers have yet to be collected for any ISIS depredations. Nineveh’s Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Amel Nona estimates that a “huge number of Christians” who could not get out when ISIS invaded his diocese were killed. Syriac Catholic Patriarch Younan reported that ISIS killed over 500 Christians, all civilians, but the number could be much higher.

 

Using a State Department questionnaire from the Darfur genocide, the Knights of Columbus interviewed several hundred (out of 120,000) Christian refugees in Kurdistan. As its March 9, 2016 Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East Report documents, survivors reported that their sons, cousins, fathers, or brothers went missing after being led away by Isis jihadists. Based on relatives’ testimony, KofC lawyer Scott Lloyd says: “Dozens and perhaps hundreds of Christians, mostly men, were demanded as hostages in exchange for their families’ [freedom] to leave. They haven’t been seen since.”

 

While ISIS’s practice of sexual slavery mostly targeted the Yazidis, Archbishop Moshi states that over 20 Christian girls and women were captured and remain held, despite Church ransom offers of $30,000—far above the slave prices on the ISIS-published list. One was three-year-old Christina, whom, her mother learned from a cell phone call from another captured Christian woman, was sold at a Mosul slave market. In another case, three months after being kidnapped, a daughter called her mother to say that she had been “converted” to Islam and “married” to a Muslim man.

A Christian mother who managed to escape told of horrific abuse at a sex-slave detention center, under the direction of a sheikh who performed “marriages,” in accordance with ISIS’s strict rules. She told Minority Rights Group International:

 

That night I was married to eight different men and divorced eight times. Each man raped me three or four times. When all this was over, we were taken back to the room where all the girls were being held. They made us walk naked through the big room where all the men were sitting. We were barely able to walk. This scenario was repeated every week—it was like a nightmare.

 

Author Mindy Belz interviewed several Nineveh Christians escapees. She relates: “One father described being tortured while his wife and two children were threatened after the family refused to deny their faith.” ISIS militants raped the mother and 12-year-old daughter of another family, causing the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. Father Bazi says that many Christian women and girls were raped but are too shamed to reveal it.

 

Forced conversion to Islam was so prevalent that special ministries were established in Kurdistan to counsel escapees burdened by the guilt. In September 2014, a family of 12 Assyrian Christians who spent a month under ISIS in Bartella reported being robbed, forcibly converted before a sharia court, and put under house arrest for 17 days without food. They told of seeing a badly beaten Assyrian man who refused to convert being bound and driven off in a truck—to be killed, they assumed. In another report, 14 men in a group of 48 Christians who had been held hostage for two weeks converted to Islam after ISIS militants tried to rape the girls, including a 9 year old.

 

By August 2014, Patriarch Younan had begun pronouncing the Christian situation a “genocide.” Virtually the entire Christian population, and every trace of its unique 2,000-year-old civilization, has been eradicated from the ISIS-controlled Nineveh Province, the historic homeland of Iraqi Christianity. The vast majority of Nineveh’s Christians—like the vast majority of Yazidis—has been completely dispossessed and driven from their homes into Kurdistan or across the borders.

 

Raqqa and Qaryatayn, Syria

 

Raqqa is upheld as the prime example of an ISIS-controlled area implementing a jizya arrangement with Christians, due to a dhimmi contract posted on the Internet in February 2014 that set out the purported jizya terms. But, as evidenced by the blurred-out signatures of some 20 Raqqa Christians at the bottom, only a few dozen Christians had survived the prior seven months of ISIS occupation and al-Nusra’s before that. As in Mosul, when ISIS raised the jizya issue, the Christian community was already virtually extinct. Their numbers have dwindled since, and now the dozen or so left are all elderly, held as captives, and used as human shields.

 

The dhimmi document presumed the existence of churches with its detailed list of forbidden things to do involving them: bans against ringing bells, displaying crosses, and making repairs. Yet ISIS had destroyed all the churches and none was open. The last cleric left when ISIS arrived. It is in Raqqa where the Italian Jesuit Reverend Paolo Dall’Oglio was presumably murdered by jihadis the year before.

 

The State Department’s former counterterrorism expert Ambassador Alberto Fernandez describes the Raqqa jizya document as essentially a pathetic “Salafi Caliphate publicity stunt”:

 

[T]here are no images whatsoever of what could be described as normal Christian life in ISIS-controlled territory—no functioning churches, no monasteries or working priests, and no Christian families or Christian schools—all of which had existed throughout Islamic history.

 

Reports in spring 2016 state that the few remaining Christians were under house arrest. Voice of America mentions the dhimmi contract but then states:

 

IS has also confiscated their land and used them as human shields to deter international coalition and Syrian warplanes from hitting its positions in Raqqa and elsewhere.

 

Fernandez explains that ISIS’s leader raised the jizya issue in Raqqa to appear more “Caliph-like.”

 

The pact seems more aspirational, and more about preparing the stage for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s assuming the mantle of the Caliph, which happened only four months later, than a real document regulating the life of an actual community. Just as the Caliph Omar in the 7th century produced an agreement to regulate the life of a protected minority, so would the Caliph-in-Waiting do the same. The only thing missing were actual Christians.

 

The respected outlet “Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered” that monitors ISIS in its “capital” also repeats the jizya terms but makes clear that these payments did not spare the city’s Christian minority from ISIS’s brutal bigotry. “Christians are the most vulnerable group in the country,” observes the group’s Hussam Issa.

 

John was a college-age Christian whose family agreed to the “jizya” arrangement. He related that he survived for 18 months by carrying an official ISIS protection document obtained by extortion payments, which, using ISIS’s terminology, he called “jizya.” John described living in “constant fear,” forced to conform to ISIS haircut and dress codes and behavior rules. While he was able to meet socially with other Christians, he was unable to go to church or receive the sacraments. He relates how he once watched a street demonstration with crowds shouting “Allahu Akbar”: “But when an IS [Islamic State] man saw me being silent, he stopped the car. I had to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ too.” He made his secret escape one night in early 2016—the last young Christian to leave.

 

Raqqa’s female Christians faced an even tougher fate. ISIS defectors report that the rape of Christian “infidels” was common and approved by the ISIS shariacourt. Some were girls as young as 12 years old.

 

The touted Raqqa “jizya” arrangement proved to be a deception. Last October, ISIS made a similar propaganda show in Qaryatayn. ISIS’s publicity campaignsurrounding the dhimmi contract signing there was extensive, as detailed by MEMRI. In an ISIS video of the signing, the narrator proclaims:

The Caliph of the Muslims displayed kindness and generosity, and agreed to accept their jizya tax, and to allow them to live under the rule of the Caliphate as part of the dhimma contract.”

 

There, too, ISIS claims were false.

 

That fall, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Jean Kawak attested that the Qaryatayn Christians were being “treated like slaves.” He said they were held there against their will. The facts revealed in April 2016, after the town’s liberation, support those assessments.

 

As reported by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, the 300 Christians remaining in the city after ISIS captured it were immediately subjected to abuse and violence by the jihadists. He said 21 were killed trying to escape, or refusing to convert to Islam or submit to the “caliphate’s” rules.

 

In October 2015, with Muslims’ help, Qaryatayn’s Christians set up an underground railroad and began escaping in small groups to Homs. They sent out the young girls first after being warned that jihadi leaders desired them as “wives.” Their priest Jacques Mourad was imprisoned and tortured and the town’s 5th-century Mar Elian monastery and churches were demolished. The bishops continue to try to ransom a group of the town’s Christians, whom ISIS imprisoned elsewhere last fall.

 

Accountability

 

The Commission takes ISIS propaganda at face value and asserts, without evidence, that “Christian communities” are living under ISIS today and payingjizya. It mistakenly credits the terror group with making an exception from its standard ultra-violence for the Christian minority, out of respect for “People of the Book,” and seeking to coexist with them through traditional jizyaarrangements. It accepts as fact that ISIS does not intend to destroy the Christian community. It offers unfounded reassurances that ISIS attacks against “vulnerable” Christians are not religiously motivated. And its unsupported summary conclusion, laden with such false premises, precludes any finding that ISIS is waging genocide against Middle Eastern Christians. It only refrained from repeating the ISIS video’s praise of al Baghdadi’s “kindness and generosity.”

 

In truth, there is a complete absence of intact Christian communities in ISIS territory, which is prima facie evidence that there was no jizya option for the Christians. Testimony and reports from the Christian survivors and their clergy confirm this.

 

What ISIS refers to as “jizya” is extortion and ransom from a few disabled or elderly individuals, and others who did not escape in time. Those who did not escape have been killed or forced to become jihadi “brides,” human shields, slaves, hostages, or Muslims against their will. They are barred from practicing their Christian faith.

 

ISIS not only intends to destroy the Christian communities under its control, it has done so, and should be held accountable for the genocide against the Christians, as well as for that against the Yazidis. The Commission of Inquiry needs to answer why, in its conclusion on the Christians, it obscured the dangerous ideology of the Islamic State and served as an echo chamber for its propaganda.

 

Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Her forthcoming report, The ISIS Genocide of Middle Eastern Christian Minorities and Its Jizya Propaganda Ploy, will be available next week at www.hudson.org

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Would Russia Use a Veto To Stop A Genocide Resolution?

Letter from the Russian Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Alexander Yakovenko: – where he calls for the use of “international law” and that “Russia agrees that it is extremely important in these processes to ensure equal rights and freedoms for various religious and ethnic groups.” 

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Coming up….

At a time of deepening crisis in SYRIA and PAKISTAN, AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED is holding a briefing with eye-witness testimonies from two of their project partners.

 Date: Monday, 17th October

Time: 3pm

Venue: House of Lords Committee Room G

 PAKISTAN: ARCHBISHOP SEBASTIAN SHAW of Lahore.

Head of the largest Catholic diocese in Pakistan, he led the

Church’s response to the Easter Day 2016 Lahore Massacre

and other atrocities affecting Christians and other minorities.

ARCHBISHOP SEBASTIAN SHAW

SYRIA: SISTER ANNIE DEMERJIAN of Aleppo.

Providing emergency help in areas worst-affected

by violence and acute poverty, Sister Annie leads

a team of volunteers who go house-to-house, providing

food, shelter and medicine at great risk to their safety.

SISTER ANNIE DEMERJIAN

Aid to the Church in Need is providing emergency and pastoral help for those suffering persecution both in Syria, Pakistan and 135 other countries around the world.

Interest in the event is expected to be high. To secure your place, please notify us by contacting Johnny Dowling on 0208 661 5154 or john.dowling@acnuk.org

 Further details about the speakers and the event are available on request.

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Genocide Determination Bill [HL]

13 June 2016

Volume 773

First Reading

3.16 pm

A Bill to provide for the High Court of England and Wales to make a preliminary finding on cases of alleged genocide; and for the subsequent referral of such findings to the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Alton of Liverpool, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Click here for the text:

Genocide Determination Bill HLB 49

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3644519/Islamic-State-committing-genocide-against-Yazidis–U-N.html – June 16th 2016

Mosul: Women from Iraqi Religious Minorities

14 June 2016

Question

3.00 pm

Asked by

  • Lord Alton of Liverpool
  • To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the public burning to death, in Mosul, by ISIS, of 19 women from Iraqi religious minorities.
  • The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con)
  • My Lords, we are aware of reports of the burning to death of up to 19 Yazidi women in Mosul. We are not able to verify these reports, but it is clear that Daesh has carried out appalling atrocities against Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and other communities in Iraq and Syria. Ultimately the only way to stop Daesh carrying out such abuses is to liberate all the people currently under its control.
  • Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
  • My Lords, in thanking the Minister for that reply, may I tell her that yesterday, speaking here, a young Yazidi woman, Pari Ibrahim, who has seen 21 men and 19 women from her family murdered, described the mourning which has gripped her community in the aftermath of last week’s primeval burnings—which were driven, of course, by ISIS’s ideological hatred of difference? That young woman asked—and I would like to ask the Minister the same question—what we were doing to free the more than 3,000 other Yazidi and Christian women and girls held captive by ISIS. Why has not a single person, including returning jihadists, yet been brought to justice? Following the unanimous vote of the House of Commons two months ago declaring this to be a genocide, have we raised this in the Security Council? Are we creating the judicial mechanisms necessary to bring to justice those responsible for these abhorrent and wicked crimes?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My Lords, there were at least four questions there, but in deference to the bravery of Pari, whom I have met on other occasions and met again last week to discuss these matters, I say that I do not doubt the determination and sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in raising these matters. The House should not underestimate the determination of the UK Government to be able to resolve the horrific experiences which Pari’s family has seen and which have been experienced by other groups, whether it is LGBT people being thrown off rooftops or women being undermined in their communities. We are making our best efforts with allies around the world to find new ways of collecting information and of working at the United Nations to bring justice to those who so richly need it.
  • Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab)
  • My Lords, it is hard to find language adequate to describe the events in Mosul last week. Clear evidence is coming out of that part of the country that those women were put into cages and set on fire. They burned screaming for their lives in the presence of huge crowds which were forced into the squares to watch this happening as a lesson to them all. The women were there because they had refused to have sex with their ISIS captors. Yazidi women who have been captured are being used as sex slaves. They are appearing on platforms to be sold. They are also being subjected to repeated rape. If ever anything was a genocide, this is. As our nation sits on the Security Council with a special position as one of the five with a veto vote, I wonder whether we could have this placed on the Security Council agenda, which does not involve any vetoes. We could have it on the permanent agenda. Are we doing anything to secure that place on the agenda for this issue?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My Lords, it is a fact that Daesh uses these most appalling treatments and murders in order to subjugate people. It is therefore important that when we consider them, we look very carefully at how we communicate what has been happening and that we also look carefully at the evidence of what has been happening. Taking a political action is a matter of a moment; it does not deliver justice. The commitment of this Government to delivering that justice is absolute. It consumes the work that I do and the work of those in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in other departments who are helping me and who have great expertise, because we know that it is only by delivering justice in that area that we can not only help people there but ensure that there is more security elsewhere.
  • The Lord Bishop of Worcester
  • My Lords, at the wonderful parliamentary prayer breakfast in Westminster Hall that I attended this morning along with 750 others, including 150 parliamentarians, many of them from this House, we were addressed by Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK. He spoke movingly of the plight of Christians in the Middle East. While I acknowledge that the vast majority of those killed by ISIS are Muslims, will the Minister assure the House that the Government will work ever more closely with the leaders of the appallingly persecuted Christian community in the Middle East, such as Bishop Angaelos, and other religious leaders there in order to learn their perspective on what is happening?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • The right reverend Prelate makes a vital point, and indeed I do give that undertaking. I was very fortunate that a couple of weeks ago Bishop Angaelos invited me to the headquarters of the Coptic Church in Stevenage to discuss matters with him there, and he subsequently kindly ensured that here in the Palace I was able to meet senior representatives of Christian faiths from Syria, who very bravely travelled to this country to give me information. We will continue to do that.
  • Baroness Berridge (Con)
  • My Lords, in 2015 the United Kingdom gave refuge to 322 Iraqis, which includes those who applied for asylum here and those who entered under the UN Gateway and Mandate schemes. The 20,000 allocation of the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme is of course open only to Syrian passport holders, so Yazidis are ineligible to claim purely because they hold the wrong passport. Please could the Minister raise urgently with her colleagues in the Home Office the need for a modest extension of the scheme so that Iraq’s persecuted religious minorities, who are equally affected by the actions of IS, can be offered some form of refuge here?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My noble friend makes a very humanitarian point, and I agree that it is worth taking up. The Home Office’s Gateway, Mandate and children at risk resettlement schemes are not nationality-specific, so they could indeed cover Yazidis. With regard to internally displaced persons, which the majority of Yazidis are, it is a fact that as a matter of international law those seeking international protection have to be first outside their country of origin. We will continue to look at how best we can deliver security to those who have been displaced by Daesh, but security really means defeating Daesh; that is what it is all about.
  • Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD)
  • My Lords, it is mercifully unlikely that this particularly unsavoury episode actually took place. None the less, the Yazidi Spiritual Council reminded me yesterday that, as the Minister knows, the Yazidi faith is now the second largest in Iraq. It is a distant cousin of Christianity and extremely ancient. In order to try to stop the Yazidis being totally wiped out—this is the 72nd episode in a millennium and a half—extraordinary action must be taken, and it cannot just be overseas aid. Would the Minister consider putting together a small group of Ministers from other departments—I would gladly offer to help—to set up a religious tolerance programme internationally and in the United Kingdom, led by Britain? We have a uniquely tolerant attitude towards different faiths. If the Yazidis are to survive at all, we have to make a unique effort.
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • The noble Baroness makes an important point. I can say that we as a Government hope to play our own small part in doing something towards that in the autumn. On 19 and 20 October we are going to hold a conference for all faiths on freedom of religion and belief, and we are going to be examining the very points that she put forward.

chjristian genoicde3

 

May 2016: Read the latest Government replies and the Prime Minister’s Statement that this is genoicde. Go to:  

https://davidalton.net/2016/04/21/genocide-parliament-has-spoken-and-the-government-now-needs-to-refer-this-resolution-to-the-security-council-to-stop-prevaricating-and-toundertake-its-obligations-as-a-signatory-to-the-prevention-of/

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Talking Point

David Alton

Published on April 28th in The Catholic Times 

 

Last week the House of Commons unanimously passed an unprecedented Motion of historic significance. By 278 votes to zero MPs declared that the systematic targeting of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria is a genocide.

The Motion, moved by the Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Congleton’s MP, Fiona Bruce, enjoyed strong cross-party support – but was opposed by the Government.

 

Any Minister, or MP who serves as a Private Parliamentary Secretary, or who is part of what is called the Government Payroll would have had to resign if they had entered the Division Lobby in favour of the Genocide Motion – and none did.

 

Ironically, Tobias Ellwood MP, the Government Minister who was sent to tell the House of Commons why MPs should reject the Motion, has personally declared that “I believe that genocide has taken place.”

 

He is not alone in believing that a genocide is underway – and nor is the House of Commons.

 

Other legislative bodies such as the European Parliament and the American House of Representatives, have already passed their own Genocide Declarations but our own Government stubbornly cling to the argument that it does not want to be the judge or jury and that declarations of genocide are “matters for the courts”

 

Over the past two years during which I have been campaigning for this Declaration the Government have repeatedly resorted to this buck passing mantra – simultaneously refusing to provide a trigger for a referral to the courts. So it becomes a circular argument.

Nearly two years ago, on 23 July 2014, I warned in an opinion piece in the Times that:

 

“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 wrote that,

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

But despite its duty to protect vulnerable minorities, the world did not wake up and the systematic annihilation has continued.  For those caught up in these barbaric events, the stakes are utterly existential.

Last year, 200 Assyrian Christians in the Khabour river valley were kidnapped and jihadi websites showed graphic executions of some of the group, warning that others would be executed if the ransoms remained unpaid.

Last August, the ancient Saint Eliane monastery in central Syria, which was founded more than 1,500 years ago, was destroyed by ISIS and dozens of Syriac Christians were abducted.

Last year, a UN report said that ISIS continues, “to deliberately and wantonly loot and destroy places of religious and cultural significance … which ISIS considers as un-Islamic. Generally, these sites are looted before being destroyed”.

The motive is to destroy history, to destroy diversity and to destroy difference. And ISIS boasts that this is their declared intention.

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

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. There is evidence of mass executions, beheadings, crucifixions, 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.

Little wonder that last July, on his visit to Bolivia, Pope Francis said that what is underway against these beleaguered communities is a genocide.

Hillary Clinton agrees: “What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS” 

Clinton’s successor as US Secretary of State, John Kerry, says:  In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide… Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.”

In March, in a leading article The Times insisted that the destruction of Christians from the Middle Eastnow amounts to nothing less than genocide“‎ while The Telegraph asked: “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?

 

In December last I organised 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. The Government were urged to name this genocide for what it is.

The Prime Minister again replied to say that “genocide is a matter of legal rather than political opinion. We as the Government are not the prosecutor, the judge or the jury”.

But he has based this statement on erroneous advice.

 

Article VIII of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, categorically 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”

The Convention was itself the culmination of years of campaigning by the Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin – who saw his entire family annihilated in the Holocaust. The Convention insists that “international co-operation” is needed “to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge” and it defines genocide as, “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

That is precisely what is underway against Christians and other minorities and if, in our generation, we fail to act against this contemporary scourge we might just as well rip up the Genocide Convention as a worthless piece of paper.

Nine months ago at an event organised in Parliament by the Catholic Charity, Aid to the Church in Need – and attended by Minister Ellwood – we heard the story of a Christian pastor in a village near Aleppo 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.

Last week, on the night before the House of Commons vote, I shared a platform with a 16-year-old Yazidi girl, Ekhlas, whose harrowing testimony deeply affected MPs – with frequent references during the debate to her account or murder, rape, imprisonment, brainwashing and forced conversion.

John Pontifex of Aid to the Church In Need, has recently returned from Syria, and also spoke at that meeting. He says: “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?”

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”.

Surely, if anything marks us out from the barbarism of ISIS it is our belief in the rule of law and our accountability before courts of law.

We also have the opportunity to make a step change by moving beyond aerial bombardment to a consideration of justice, to demand that, guided by our commitment to the rule of law, we will bring those responsible for this genocide to justice.

While the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over the four most serious international crimes, including genocide, in order to act, the Court requires a referral from the UN Security Council. Britain, which is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, has not asked it to do this.

One year ago the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court lamented the absence of a referral of the situation from the UN Security Council.

A year later there has still been no referral.

In 2015 the Government told me: “We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yazidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.

The Government say they are frightened that another country – presumably Russia or China – would veto such a proposal.  This is implausible.

What those countries vetoed in 2014 was a motion on general military action in Syria not a resolution to prosecute ISIS for acts of genocide .

What is far more likely and plausible is that we are frightened of upsetting our “allies” in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  Turkey has never acknowledged the deaths of one million Armenian Christians in the “slow burn” genocide which commenced one hundred years ago and which continues under a different guise today.

I always reflect that as he planned his Final Solution Hitler was comforted by the thought which he expressed in the words: “who now remembers the Armenians?”

Last week’s historic House of Commons Resolution is a recognition of the past failure to name such genocides before or while they were occurring.

I have personally visited the genocide sites in Rwanda—a salutary and chilling experience.

I am always struck that Bill Clinton and the 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.

William 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, Philip 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”.

History proves that once the word genocide is used to designate heinous and targeted crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or in Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop those atrocities

In passing their unanimous genocide resolution the House of Commons has tried to learn from these lessons of history.

If what is happening to Yazidis and Assyrian Christians doesn’t meet the high technical standard of what constitutes a genocide it’s hard to imagine what would.

Sickened by this visceral barbarism and brutality and, in asking for the evidence to be placed before the Security Council and the international courts the House of Commons, the European Parliament and American Congress are right to force the hand of Governments.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian 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”.

The House of Commons has spoken and it has acted.

MPs were right to assert Parliament’s will.

For the Government to ignore this vote would amount to contempt of Parliament and a betrayal of those who are suffering so grievously.

David Alton – Lord Alton of Liverpool – is an Independent Crossbench Peer. The full House of Commons and House of Lords debates – and some of the testimonies referred to – may be read on his web site: www.davidalton.net

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/trevi-fountain-in-rome-to-be-dyed-red-for-christian-martyrs-96176/

————————————————————————–

Questions for Written Answer

Tabled on 27 April and due for answer by 12 May.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government when they anticipate being in a position to reply to the representations made to Lord Bates and to Lord Keen of Elie about Syrian Christian families seeking asylum after the beheading of family members.   HL8013

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the attacks on 26 April on the Christian neighbourhood of Sulaymaniyah in Aleppo, and of reports that at least eight children were among those killed.   HL8014

Hillsborough – DPP Asked To Expedite Decision; Susan Hemming to take Final Decisions – Jury verdict of unlawful killing: The Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Investigation – and correspondence from 1989 with the Police Complaints Authority and Government Ministers. April 1989 intervention in the House of Commons. April 27th 2016 Statement in the House of Lords; April 29th letter to the Director of the Crown Prosecution Service

 

Dear Mr.Okogwu

 

I would be grateful if you would thank the Director for this response.

 

I do find it astonishing that it will not be possible to decide more quickly – and certainly well before the end of the year.

 

I would have assumed you would have been receiving transcripts of the Inquest throughout the proceedings and would have been assessing them continually – particularly given the potential for some prosecution questions and the need for requisite decisions.

 

Given the extraordinary delays which have blighted the lives of the affected families for nearly three decades I would be grateful if you would convey my further request to expedite the decisions which must be taken.

 

Could you also indicate whether there is any linkage to the work of the continuing Hillsborough Inquiry and whether you will be asking the Inquiry team for sight of their preliminary findings and conclusions before arriving at your own decisions about how best to proceed.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

David Alton

(Lord Alton of Liverpool),

 

Professor of Citizenship, Liverpool John Moores University,

Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords.

 

www.davidalton.net     altond@parliament.uk

 

0151 231 3852 (University); 0207 219 3551 (Parliament)

 

  • Hillsborough 3
  • http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm198889/cmhansrd/1989-04-17/Debate-1.htmlColumn 33: House of Commons April 17th 1989 Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill) : In the face of this terrible and wholly avoidable tragedy–many of the fatalities were young children, including a 13-year-old boy from my

    constituency–expressions of condolences and sympathy seem inadequate to sum up the enormity of it for a city that is mourning its dead and is united in its grief.

    A time will come when grief will give way to anger and questions will have to be answered. I should like an assurance from the Home Secretary that it will be made clear why the gate was opened and who took that decision. Why were emergency arrangements so pitifully inadequate? I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about the provision of seats in our national stadiums, but will he take urgent action to ensure that those terrible metal cages are put on the scrap heap and people are treated like human beings instead of animals? On 22 March, I wrote to the Minister about the ticket allocation for Saturday’s match. I enclosed a statement from Mr. Peter Robinson, the chief executive of Liverpool football ground, who said : “I made it plain that there was no way I could support the choice of Hillsborough this year with the same ticket allocations applying.”

    When I received a reply dated 11 April from the Minister of Sport, he said that the mater was entirely for the football authorities. In the light of what has happened, will the Home Secretary accept that the Minister should take an interest in this matter? Will he confirm that which the Minister said, that the allocations were made on the basis of police advice? I ask that because there have been conflicting statements in the past 24 hours.

    Liverpool is a city schooled in adversity. However, not since the blitz has it had to face a tragedy on such a shocking scale. I am sure that the House today will wish to express its solidarity with those who grieve and those awaiting news of loved ones, whose lives still lie in the balance.

    Mr. Hurd : All the points raised by the hon. Gentleman are clearly covered by the terms of reference of the inquiry, and Lord Justice Taylor will be able to look into them. I am slightly surprised that he suggests that Ministers should become involved in deciding, match by match, how tickets should be allocated. He is perfectly right in his understanding– these are matters for the football authorities. They consult on them and are guided by the police. I shall repeat my earlier point that, although the matter of total allocation will certainly be looked into, it was not the total allocation, so much as the concentration of that allocation in a part of the Liverpool terrace, which resulted in the terrible damage.

  • ———————————————————————-
  • Hillsborough Statement, House of Lords,  April 27th 2016
  • Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
  • My Lords, during the 27 years that have elapsed since the Hillsborough disaster, the double spectre of loss and injustice has hung over the people of Liverpool. Among the 96 who died were former constituents of mine, including a child. Those deaths of loved ones were compounded by the denial of criminal negligence, callous indifference, the subversion of our justice system, collective character assassination and demonisation. If the Minister has had a chance to read the material I sent him this morning, including the letter I sent before the game was played at Hillsborough which questioned the safety of the ground, he will realise that there are still many unanswered questions. I would be grateful if he told us more about the timetabling of the continuing inquiry, which is being held with great diligence and meticulousness at Warrington; I have had a chance to visit it and talk to the people about the way they are going about their work. Will he also answer the question which the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, put to him a few moments ago about the further judicial proceedings that will be necessary and the timetabling for decisions? We certainly cannot wait another three decades.
  • Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
  • To take the noble Lord’s last question first, it would certainly be inappropriate for me to straitjacket the CPS in any respect, but the CPS, the two ongoing inquiries and everyone involved in them are fully aware of the sensitive nature of this issue. As we said, there is a responsibility on all involved in these inquiries to make sure that we reach a decision which ensures that justice prevails as soon as is possible and practicable, but it is very much for the CPS to lead on this. I confess that I have not had time to reflect on the detail of the information the noble Lord sent to me this morning, but I certainly will, and look forward to discussing it with him.

————————————————————————–

April 26th 2016: Ninety-six football fans who died as a result of a crush in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster were unlawfully killed, the inquests have concluded.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-36138337

 

The jury decided the match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield’s actions amounted to “gross negligence” due to a breach of his duty of care to fans.

Police errors also added to a dangerous situation at the FA Cup semi-final.

After a 27-year campaign by victims’ families, the behaviour of Liverpool fans was exonerated.

The jury found they did not contribute to the danger unfolding at the turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s ground on 15 April 1989.

The jury also concluded

  • Police errors caused a dangerous situation at the turnstiles
  • Failures by commanding officers caused a crush on the terraces
  • There were mistakes in the police control box over the order to open the Leppings Lane end exit gates
  • Defects at the stadium contributed to the disaster
  • There was an error in the safety certification of the Hillsborough stadium
  • South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Ambulance Service delayed declaring a major incident
  • The emergency response was therefore delayed
  • Sheffield Wednesday failed to approve the plans for dedicated turnstiles for each pen
  • There was inadequate signage at the club and misleading information on match tickets

….

 

A statement on behalf of the families said the jury’s conclusions “completely vindicate” the long fight for justice.

 

 

The police response to the increasing crowd outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles at Liverpool’s match against Nottingham Forest was “slow and uncoordinated”, the inquests heard.

The road closure “exacerbated” the situation and there were no filter cordons in place to regulate the movement of spectators.

Attempts to close the perimeter gates were made too late and there were no contingency plans for the “sudden arrival” of a large number of fans, the jury said.

Jurors concluded the commanding officers should have ordered the closing of the tunnel which led directly to the central pens where the fatal crush occurred.

————————————————————————–

See:

https://davidalton.net/2015/05/05/two-columns-from-1989-following-the-hillsborough-disaster/

Also see: https://davidalton.net/2014/04/14/bishop-of-liverpool-and-david-alton-speak-on-the-hillsborough-disaster-2/

 

During a meeting this week, with members of the Hillsborough Independent Panel – http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/   –  which was established by the Prime Minister in 2012 , we spent a lot of our time discussing a letter which I had sent to Ministers prior to the match being played and which raised safety concerns about the ground.  The Panel also reminded me about – and showed me copies of the correspondence – which passed between me and the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority in the days which followed the April 15th, 1989, tragedy at Hillsborough: a day which claimed 96 lives and remains the most serious tragedy in UK sporting history.  The Independent Panel are painstakingly sifting through everything relating to Hillsborough, and deserve our admiration and thanks, but at this distance they have an almost impossible task – a task which should have been undertaken in the same objective and thorough manner twenty five years ago.

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, four days after the Hillsborough Disaster, asking for a him to open an independent Inquiry into attempts by Police spokesmen to blame the fans for their own deaths.

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, four days after the Hillsborough Disaster, asking for him to open an independent Inquiry into attempts by Police spokesmen to blame the fans for their own deaths.

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, on May 17th 1989, contesting the Authority's failure to mount an investigation

Letter to Sir Cecil Clothier, Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, on May 17th,1989, contesting the Authority’s failure to mount an investigation

Letter from the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority to the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire saying he had done his best to "deflect" the complaint. Sir Cecil signs the letter  "Spike" - perhaps appropriately as it's a word used by journalists when an editors has decided to withhold a story from publication.

Letter from the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority to the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire saying he had done his best to “deflect” my complaint. Sir Cecil signs the letter “Spike” – perhaps appropriately as it’s a word used by journalists when an editor has decided to withhold a story from publication.

Hillsoborough Correspondence DA

Moynihan reply to DA & cutting

In the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster, I had a protracted correspondence with the Police Complaints Authority, challenging the remarks which had been made by Police Officers and repeated in mass circulation newspapers and the media that Liverpool Football Club fans were responsible for their own deaths and injuries. I called for an Independent Inquiry.  The correspondence has been published by the Hillsborough Independent Review (at http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk/repository/docs/HOM000021980001.pdf) and it makes for deeply depressing reading.

Among the letters which were sent to me and which went to Sir Cecil Clothier, the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, was one from a constituent who was on the Leppings Lane Terrace and who provided a first-hand account of what he saw and experienced.  

The letter is dated April 19th 1989, just four days after the tragedy. He vividly describes what occurred and focuses on the description of events given by police officers to the media, saying those responsible “should be prosecuted for the hurt, distress and wounding caused on Merseyside by his untrue, insensitive, unproven slanderous remarks…”   

In my own letter to Sir Cecil, also dated April 19th, 1989, I asked him to “institute an immediate enquiry into the propriety of the remarks passed yesterday by Police Officers of the South Yorkshire Police Force” and that as the remarks had been made the day after the Home Secretary announced the judicial enquiry and “the solicitor for 30 of the victims’ families had begun proceedings against the Chief Constable and his Force these remarks should never have been made.”

I asked ”By what right did Police Officers make statements calculated to be prejudicial to the reputation of Liverpool Football Club and its supporters, and which seem to be part of a smokescreen of propaganda aimed at diverting attention from the truth.”

Quoting Lord Denning I reminded him that “Be they ever so mighty they are not mightier than the law” and I asked him to establish “how such statements came to be made and on whose authority they were issued.” I copied the letter to the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, and asked what guidelines existed for the publication of statements once a judicial inquiry had been announced.

In my next letter to Sir Cecil, five days later, on April 24th I asked his Police Complaints Authority to examine the conduct of the South Yorkshire Police – independently of the Government-established Inquiry by Lord Justice Taylor and the Police Inquiry to be led by the West Midlands Police Force because “you will be regarded as independent of Government and Constabulary, both of whom are clearly involved in having taken crucial decisions, which led to the horrific events at Sheffield.”

Sir Cecil wrote back on the 3rd of May refusing to conduct an investigation  and stated that “ I must say at once there is not the slightest ground for suggesting that an enquiry conducted under the authority of Lord justice Taylor will be other than the most rigorous and independent character.”  He suggested that the complainant would be better off “offering himself as a witness to Lord Justice Taylor’s enquiry, rather than by invoking the complaints procedure which is principally concerned with police discipline.”

The previous day, May 2nd, Sir Cecil wrote to me setting out the procedures for making a complaint and said “I am not sure whether you are making a formal complaint as a member of the public affected by the happenings at Hillsborough or as a Member of Parliament.”

He told me that if it was the latter I should raise my concerns in Parliament.

 I replied on May 8th stating that my complaint was made “as a citizen of Liverpool” who was “deeply aggrieved that these comments were made when two Inquiries had already been established, rendering their comments sub-judice.”

I told him that “Their remarks were prejudiced, contrary to good police practice, insensitive to relatives and damaging to my city. I therefore trust you will feel able to carry out an investigation as to how this could have come about.”

On the 16th of May Sir Cecil once again set out the procedures under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984, and told me “I believe it would be better by far to await the findings of Lord justice Taylor’s inquiry before lodging a complaint about controversial statements by a police officer.”

On the 17th of May I responded that if no action should be taken until after the Inquiry “by the same argument should not the officer who made the offensive comments about Liverpool supporters have kept his comments to himself until after the Inquiry?” 

I asked for him to investigate the South Yorkshire Force because, as the statements had been made anonymously, “there was no one officer to lodge a complaint about.” I told Sir Cecil that I had that day written to Peter Wright, the Chief Constable, lodging a formal complaint.

Among the letters which the Hillsborough Independent Review have also published is one sent on May 25th by Sir Cecil to Chief constable Peter Wright in which he encloses my own letters to him and referring to me he says “It appears that despite my best efforts to deflect him from doing so, he has decided to lodge a formal complaint with you.”

He tells him that he could “satisfy the statutory requirements“if he were simply to “appoint an investigating officer.”  He adds that “I do not think it would satisfy Mr. Alton however, who seems to think that Lord Justice Taylor and Mr. Dear are not sufficiently independent.” Signing his letter with his nickname, Spike, Sir Cecil Clothier copied this note to Lord Justice Taylor and Mr. Dear.   

In that respect he was, of course, right, I was not satisfied – and, more importantly, nor were the families who wanted justice and truth; and twenty five years later they remain convinced that they were lied to and subject to collective character assassination.  

Not as a citizen of Liverpool but as one of its MPs, I had, of course, also been raising the issue in Parliament but had met the same brick walls and prevarication.

Ministers said what had occurred at Hillsborough was a matter for the Chief Constable and for the Taylor Inquiry. In the House of Commons, on April 24th 1989, I asked “at what level the publication of statements on 18 April by South Yorkshire police concerning the conduct of Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough semi-cup final was authorised; if he will publish a copy of that statement and the name of the officer who made it; and if he will make a statement”.
The Minister of State at the Home Office, Douglas Hogg, replied:

“Statements made by officers of the South Yorkshire police are a matter for the chief constable. It would not be helpful for me to publish statements or counter-statements which have been made about the circumstances leading to the tragedy, or to name those who made them. It is for Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry to establish the facts”.-[Official Report, Commons, 24/4/89; col. 404.]

In the years which followed, I asked why those facts had not been established, why evidence had disappeared, and, in 1998, I asked  what account  Jack Straw, then the Home Secretary, had taken “in deciding against a fresh inquiry into the Hillsborough tragedy, of missing video tapes, changed statements by police officers, conflicting medical evidence and complaints of lack of impartiality in the original coroner’s process and in the granting of immunity from prosecution to police officers upon taking early retirement”. Ministers told me there was “no new evidence.” In 2012 I set out the reasons why this was not so:  https://davidalton.net/2012/12/16/bishop-of-liverpool-and-david-alton-speak-on-the-hillsborough-disaster/

More than two decades later the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in establishing the Hillsborough Independent Review, made it clear that he concurs.  

Mr Cameron told Parliament that the Liverpool fans had “suffered a double injustice”, both in the “failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth”.

What the diligent and painstaking work of the Independent Review team is now attempting to lay bare are not only the errors and deceits which occurred on that bleak day in April 1989 but the wanton and seemingly systematic attempts to delay, to obfuscate, and to refuse to truthfully address the questions which families and witnesses have consistently put to the authorities.

From time immemorial it has always been a tactic of Governments to set up committees in the hope of sending a contentious issue into the long grass and, with the passage of time, and the deaths of many of those who took wrong decisions or failed to do their jobs properly, their hope is that the ensuing reports will simply gather dust.  

G.K.Chesterton, writing about what passes for public accountability and parliamentary scrutiny, once mocked a self-serving process which relied on copious amounts of white-wash. In his “Autobiography: the case against corruption” he writes that “A parliamentary Commission was appointed and reported that everything was very nice; a Minority report was issued which reported that some things were not quite so nice; and political life (if you can call it life) went on as before.”

Those who are privileged to hold high office should understand that for those who died and for those who still bear the emotional scars of Hillsborough life didn’t go on “as before”. We must wish the Hillsborough Independent Panel well as they finally try to do what should have been done 25 years ago.


 

On April 29th 2016 a letter was sent to Alison Saunders, Director of the Crown Prosecution Service asking what the timetable and time scale will be in reaching decisions about what must happen next and whether she will be personally reviewing the findings of the Inquest.  

?????????????????????????

Genocide: Prime Minister Says Describe It As Genocide. Parliament has spoken and the Government now needs to refer this Resolution to the Security Council, to stop prevaricating and to undertake its obligations as a signatory to the Prevention of Genocide Convention.Yazidi Victim – who spoke to MPs and Peers the night before this historic vote – Requests Meeting with The Prime Minister.

 

christian genocide

 

David Cameron

During  Prime  Minister’s Question Time, on May 4th, David Cameron said ” there is a very strong case here for saying that it is genocide, and I hope that it will be portrayed and spoken of as such” –  speaking with reference to the actions of ISIS against the Christian and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. We’ll now see whether the the Foreign Office will be following his advice.

See:
Paper on current Assyrian Genocide

 

Northern Ireland Attorney General says it’s Genocide:

May 5th 2016:-

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the legal advice given by the Attorney General in Northern Ireland that genocide is being committed against Christian and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.   HL8194

AG Advice – Lord Morrow – 15 April 2016—————————————————————————————————————–

Genocide – Recent Questions in the House of Lords:

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of recent military attacks by ISIS on the Nineveh Plain Forces (NPF) at Telliskuf; what political and military assistance they are giving to the NPF; and what assessment they have made of the NPF’s objectives.

 Earl Howe The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

Following Daesh’s attack north of Mosul on 3 May, they were pushed back by Kurdish forces. The Kurds regained the lost territory with substantial Coalition air support, which included the use of RAF aircraft. UK assistance in Iraq is channelled, as appropriate, through the Government of Iraq or the Kurdish Regional Government rather than to any individual militia forces, and the UK has made no specific assessment of the objectives of the Nineveh Plain Forces

 

————————————————————————–

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have evidence that the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Peoples Protection Units have rescued some captive Yazidi women; what assessment they have made of whether the Kurdistan Regional Government Peshmerga have carried out any rescues, and if so, whether they have offered to assist them; and whether the same British technology that is able to identify ISIS commanders has been used to identify and to rescue women captives.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

We are aware of media reports about organisations that are working to free those being held hostage by Daesh. We do not have any information regarding the rescue of Yezidi captives by either the Kurdistan Workers Party or the Peoples Protection Units. During offensive operations against Daesh, Yezidi hostages have been freed by the Peshmerga. We continue to work in support of Iraqi and Kurdish Regional government forces towards defeating this terrible organisation. The UK has been at the forefront of these efforts and plays a leading role in a Global Coalition of 66 countries and international organisations to respond to Daesh’s inhumanity.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that they fulfil the pledge in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Human Rights and Democracy Report 2015 to “continue to look at every available option to ensure accountability” for the crimes committed by Daesh.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

We continue to look at every option to ensure accountability. In the meantime we are supporting the gathering and preservation of evidence that could in future be used in a court to hold Daesh to account.

The UK co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council resolution of September 2014 mandating investigation of Daesh abuses in Iraq. Working with international partners, we are doing everything we can to assist in the gathering and preservation of evidence that could in future be used by judicial bodies to make a judgement on this matter. It is vital that this is done now, before evidence is lost or destroyed.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will apply the principles of the Responsibility to Protect to the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) imposes an obligation on all states to protect their populations, and for the international community to assist. The Asad regime has consistently ignored this obligation, using extreme violence against its own people and preventing access to humanitarian aid. The British Government is also appalled at the brutality of Daesh abuses against all communities. In line with R2P, we continue to call on all sides to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law and we are working with the international community to find ways of providing justice to those who have suffered. Ultimately, the only way of safeguarding people is by defeating Daesh and establishing a lasting peace in both Syria and Iraq.

The UK is working through the International Syria Support Group to support and facilitate UN brokered intra-Syrian negotiations to end the conflict through political transition to a government that represents and protects its people, and are a leading member of the Global Coalition against Daesh. Our counter-Daesh strategy is working. Daesh have lost about 40 per cent of the territory it once held in Iraq – and significant territory in Syria. Thousands of people have been freed from Daesh’s abusive rule and have been able to return safely to their homes.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have assessed the evidence that ISIS have sold Yazidi women to Saudi Arabians, and what representations they have made to the government of Saudi Arabia about recovering them.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

We maintain a close dialogue with Saudi Arabia on Counter Terrorism issues. We have seen no evidence of Saudi Foreign Terrorist Fighters trafficking Daesh sex slaves to Saudi Arabia.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the attacks on 26 April on the Christian neighbourhood of Sulaymaniyah in Aleppo, and of reports that at least eight children were among those killed.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

We are aware of reports of attacks on the Sulaymaniyah neighbourhood in Aleppo, and of reports that at least eight children were among those killed. We are deeply concerned about the increasing numbers of violations of the Cessation of Hostilities, especially around Aleppo. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it is the Asad regime that is responsible for the breaches, including when it has bombed schools, marketplaces, hospitals and a search and rescue centre in the last week. As the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), said in a press statement on 28 April, we call on those with influence to apply real pressure to end this spiral of violence. The UK will continue to support the Syrian people to secure their future, free from Asad, and push for progress with our international partners.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (May 3rd 2016)

My Lords, has the Minister had the chance to consider not just the appalling and shocking attacks on the hospitals and the killing of the last paediatrician in Aleppo but the specific targeting and revenge attacks on minority communities in Aleppo—particularly the attack on 26 April, which I mentioned in a Parliamentary Question that I tabled to her last week, where again several children were killed in an attack on the Syrian Christian quarter there? Has she had a chance to consider also the resolution of the Australian House of Representatives at the end of last week, joining the American House of Representatives, the British House of Commons, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in declaring these events to be a genocide, joining her ministerial colleague, Tobias Ellwood, who has said precisely the same thing? Would she consider arranging a meeting with the Foreign Secretary, Members of your Lordships’ House and Members in another place, who would like to see the judicial review of these events brought right up the agenda in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, indicated in his intervention, so that those responsible for these events will be brought to justice?

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

My Lords, wanting to bring people to justice is, of course, a long-term commitment, not achieved by short-term statements. It is important that the noble Lord has raised today the issue of the targeting of groups within Syria and, particularly, Aleppo. I have looked at that. Indeed, in the past I have discussed with groups collecting information about the atrocities exactly what it means to individuals who are under attack—particularly the White Helmets, who make such a valuable effort in retrieving people from the rubble and who, while they do so, find themselves barrel bombed by Assad for trying to save lives.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Baroness Anelay of St Johns to the private notice question from Lord Alton of Liverpool on 21 April, which members of the United Nations Security Council they believe would veto a referral to the International Criminal Court of evidence of genocide against Christian, Yazidi and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor set out some of the complicated issues involved in the ICC investigating Daesh in her press statement of 8 April 2015. It is not possible to refer Daesh itself to the ICC. Any referral would cover ALL potential crimes against international humanitarian law within a specified geographic area, rather than a specified organisation or set of actors.

When efforts were made to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC in 2014, it was vetoed by Russia and China. We expect that any Security Council resolution at this time seeking to refer the situations in Iraq or Syria to the ICC would likewise be blocked.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that witness statements by potential genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria are given to the International Criminal Court and that the collection of forensic evidence and the protection of mass graves is prioritised.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

In Syria, the UK is supporting the work of non-governmental organisations who are gathering evidence of human rights violations. This is being done to the international standard required for criminal prosecution against high level perpetrators in a domestic or international court. In Iraq, we are considering how the UK might best complement similar efforts already underway with funds from other donor countries.

Cases are being prepared for international prosecution should a referral to the International Criminal Court be forthcoming or should individuals be subject to litigation by hybrid, specialised or national courts. We are therefore doing everything we can to assist in the gathering and preservation of evidence that could in future be used by judicial bodies to make a judgement on this matter. It is vital that this is done now, before evidence is lost or destroyed.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that non-judicial bodies such as the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the US House of Representatives are competent to make a declaration that a genocide is underway; and whether they consider that the UK Parliament can do so, and if not, why not.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

The Government believes that recognition of genocide should be a matter for judicial decision. It should be a legal, rather than political determination, decided by judges after consideration of all the evidence available in the context of a credible judicial process. Political pronouncements on whether genocide has occurred, such as the European Parliament resolution, are not legally binding and do not create legal obligations on member states.

Lord Alton of Liverpool 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government under what conditions they would refer an incident or a series of incidents of suspected mass killings or alleged human rights abuses to the UN Security Council for a determination on whether genocide was occurring as defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

The Government believes that recognition of genocides should be a matter for international courts, not political bodies. It should be a legal, rather than political determination, decided by international judges after consideration of all the evidence available in the context of a credible international judicial process.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Has she had a chance to read the Hansard of yesterday’s debate, in particular the reference made by many Members to the disturbing evidence given here to Members of your Lordships’ House and another place by a 16 year-old Yazidi girl, Ekhlas, and accounts of crucifixions, beheadings, systematic rape and mass graves? Has she seen the admission of her ministerial colleague, Tobias Ellwood, that a genocide is under way? Given the unanimous vote of 278 votes to zero, following similar declarations in the United States House of Representatives, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, would it not almost be contempt of Parliament for the Government simply to say that this is non-binding and that they have no intention of following the will of Parliament in taking this matter to the Security Council, so that those responsible for these horrendous crimes will one day meet their Nuremberg moment and be held accountable for them?

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

My Lords, I bear in mind victims of Daesh whom I have personally met, both here and in Iraq. I am not therefore going to get involved in what may or may not be procedural niceties. It is clearly a matter for judicial authorities to determine whether a genocide has taken place. The noble Lord referred to a comment by my honourable friend in another place yesterday, when he expressed his personal view, which he has expressed before, when he said:

“I believe that genocide has taken place”.

He added that,

“as the Prime Minister has said”— and I am aware that the Prime Minister has written to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this—

“genocide is a matter of legal rather than political opinion. We as the Government are not the prosecutor, the judge or the jury”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/4/16; col. 995.]

We may not be all those things, but I say to Daesh and to the perpetrators that we have a long memory; we have allies, and we are working with the Government of Iraq. We will not forget the perpetrators, and they will pay the price.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply of Earl Howe on 15 March (HL Deb, col 1736) that in the UK a declaration of genocide is “a matter for the judicial system”, what they consider to be a prerequisite for such a declaration to be made by British judicial authorities; who is responsible for instigating this; and what is their response to the recent declarations of genocide against Daesh made by the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The judiciary in England and Wales does not make general declarations on genocide. It is a long-standing Government policy that any judgements on whether genocide has occurred should be a matter for the international judicial system.

Ultimately, the best way of preventing future atrocities is to defeat Daesh and its violent ideology. The UK is playing a leading role in a Global Coalition of 66 countries and international organisations to respond to Daesh’s inhumanity

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by the Minister of State for the Department for International Development, Desmond Swayne, on 16 March (HC Deb, col 937), whether it is their position that no non-state party is capable of committing genocide under the 1949 United Nations Genocide Convention.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

Under Article IV of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III of the Convention shall be punished whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals. Any member of Daesh who has committed an act of genocide is therefore liable to prosecution. Individual criminal responsibility, rather than by organisations or groups, is determined by courts. The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor has set out some of the complicated issues involved in the ICC investigating Daesh in her press statement of 8 April 2015.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by the Minister of State for the Department for International Development, Desmond Swayne, on 16 March (HC Deb, col 937), what assessment they have made of measures required to confer on the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over crimes committed by Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor has set out some of the complicated issues involved in the ICC investigating Daesh in her press statement of 8 April 2015. As neither Iraq nor Syria are State Parties to the Rome Statute, the ICC has no territorial jurisdiction over crimes committed on their soil. In order for Daesh’s crimes to be investigated by the ICC, Iraq and Syria would have to declare their acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction, or the UN Security Council could refer the situation to the Court.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will respond to, and what is their assessment of, the statement by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, that Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis and Christians.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State,

The USSecretary of State, John Kerry, is right to draw attention to the appalling crimes Daesh are committing, both against minority groups and Muslims. We will continue to work closely with the US and our other partners in the Global Coalition to defeat Daesh and to ensure justice for those who have suffered at their hands. It is a long standing UK policy that any judgement on whether genocide has occurred should be a matter for judicial decision, rather than for governments. As Secretary of State Kerry said, “ultimately, the full facts must be brought to light by an independent investigation and through formal legal determination made by a competent court or tribunal.”

 

———————————————————————–Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to Lord Alton’s written parliamentary question (HL8216):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by the Prime Minister on 4 May (HC Deb, col 168) that “there is a very strong case here for saying that it is genocide, and I hope that it will be portrayed and spoken of as such” with reference to the actions of ISIS against the Christian and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office intends to speak publicly of those actions as genocide. (HL8216)

Tabled on: 05 May 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

As the Prime Minister, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), has said, the Government’s position remains that although there is a very strong case to answer, ultimately it should be a matter for judicial authorities. The Government continues to believe that recognition of genocide should be a matter for international courts, not political bodies. It should be a legal, rather than political determination, decided by international judges after consideration of all the evidence available in the context of a credible international judicial process.

Date and time of answer: 11 May 2016 at 14:41.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8194):

————————————————————————–Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the legal advice given by the Attorney General in Northern Ireland that genocide is being committed against Christian and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. (HL8194)

Tabled on: 04 May 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

This Government condemns Daesh atrocities against Christians, other minorities, and the majority Muslim populations of Iraq and Syria. As the Prime Minister, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), has said, the Government’s position remains that although there is a very strong case to answer, ultimately it should be a matter for judicial authorities.

We are supporting the gathering and preservation of evidence that could in future be used in a court to hold Daesh to account. And we continue to deliver our comprehensive strategy to defeat Daesh, and thereby stop them from preventing more atrocities.

————————————————————————

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL8192):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the campaign by the Syriac Military Council and its militia in recapturing territory, including Assyrian villages, from ISIS. (HL8192)

Tabled on: 04 May 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We welcome all successes against Daesh. Ultimately, the best way of safeguarding minorities such as the Assyrians and the majority population is by defeating Daesh and establishing a lasting peace in both Syria and Iraq.

The Syriac Military Council has been a component part of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) since the SDF’s formation in late 2015. The SDF receives support from the Global Coalition in its efforts to combat Daesh in Northern Syria.

Date and time of answer: 11 May 2016 at 14:29.

————————————————————————-

Intervene in Christian genocide: 400,000 bring plea to UN April 30, 2016 3:39 PM New York City, N.Y., Apr 30, 2016 / 04:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-

Advocates delivered hundreds of thousands of signatures to the United Nations on Friday, calling on the body to declare that genocide is occurring against Christians and other religious minorities.

“We’re here at the United Nations headquarters to file more than 400,000 signatures from citizens from all over the world asking the Security Council of the United Nations to declare what’s happening right now with ISIS in Syria and Iraq a genocide,” Ignacio Arsuaga, president of the advocacy group CitizenGO, stated at a Friday press conference outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The petition asked the U.N. to “take a step forward to protect Christians and other religious minorities that live there,” so that “religious freedom may prevail in that region of the world.”

It was delivered to the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday. 

 

Question on Syria May 3rd 2016

  • Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
  • My Lords, has the Minister had the chance to consider not just the appalling and shocking attacks on the hospitals and the killing of the last paediatrician in Aleppo but the specific targeting and revenge attacks on minority communities in Aleppo—particularly the attack on 26 April, which I mentioned in a Parliamentary Question that I tabled to her last week, where several children were killed in an attack on the Syrian Christian quarter there? Has she also had a chance to consider the resolution of the Australian House of Representatives at the end of last week, joining the American House of Representatives, the British House of Commons, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in declaring these events to be a genocide, joining her ministerial colleague, Tobias Ellwood, who has said precisely the same thing? Would she consider arranging a meeting with the Foreign Secretary, Members of your Lordships’ House and Members in another place, who would like to see the judicial review of these events brought right up the agenda in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, indicated in his intervention, so that those responsible for these events will be brought to justice?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns This Government share the House of Commons’ condemnation of Daesh atrocities against minorities and the majority Muslim population in Iraq and Syria. That is why we mandated the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Daesh in 2014, and why we are doing everything we can to gather evidence for use by judicial bodies.
  • The noble Lord referred to the personal view put forward by my honourable friend Tobias Ellwood. Some people are announcing that there has been genocide but, while the Government agree that there may be a strong case, our view remains that the courts are best placed to judge criminal matters. That is why we are committed to working with our partners in the international community to gather that evidence in order to get that judicial decision as a possibility—to provide an opportunity for the judiciary to make the decision that is rightfully theirs to make.
  • My Lords, wanting to bring people to justice is, of course, a long-term commitment, not achieved by short-term statements. It is important that the noble Lord has raised today the issue of the targeting of groups within Syria and, particularly, Aleppo. I have looked at that. Indeed, in the past I have discussed with groups collecting information about the atrocities exactly what it means to individuals who are under attack—particularly the White Helmets, who make such a valuable effort in retrieving people from the rubble and who, while they do so, find themselves barrel bombed by Assad for trying to save lives.

 

See previous posts on Genocide:

https://davidalton.net/2016/03/18/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-co/

 

Last night the House of Commons Voted by 278 votes to zero to declare that a genocide is underway against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Syria and Iraq.

This is the first time that the House of Commons has ever declared a genocide while it is ongoing. By a unanimous vote it has insisted on a referral to the UN Security Council.

Sickened by the barbarism and brutality directed at Christians, Yazidis and other minorities, the House of Commons has spoken and the Government now needs to stop prevaricating, listen and act.

The Government also needs to address the absence of any formal mechanism to refer evidence of genocide to the Courts, which simply leads to  Government buck passing and hand wringing.

They  repeatedly say that determining whether a genocide is underway is a matter for the courts but  then refuse to provide a trigger for a referral.

Parliament – as Congress and the European Parliament have done – has had to force the Government’s hand. Unless we accept our obligations to prevent, punish and protect, when a genocide occurs, we might just as well rip up the Genocide Convention as a worthless piece of paper.

If what is happening  to groups like the Yazidis and Assyrian Christians doesn’t meet the high technical standard of what constitutes a genocide it’s hard to imagine what would. The Government failed to address that question and MPs were right to assert parliament’s will. To ignore this vote would amount to contempt of parliament.

The House of Commons voted 278 – 0 that this House believes that Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are suffering genocide at the hands of Daesh; and calls on the Government to make an immediate referral to the UN Security Council with a view to conferring jurisdiction upon the International Criminal Court so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.

Full debate at:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-04-20/debates/16042036000001/DaeshGenocideOfMinorities

The Motion was moved by Fiona Bruce MP:

Fiona Bruce: “Recognition of genocide is not the only or the final action of the international community, but it is a crucial step, and one that we should make today. I recognise that conferring jurisdiction on the ICC requires the support of other members of the Security Council, but that should not stop our country from initiating the process. I add that there is precedent for the Security Council to establish a fact-finding committee of experts, so that all current evidence can be assessed and new evidence can be collected. If the motion is passed, I appeal to the Government to consider that recommendation at the Security Council. I repeat: some may ask, “What difference will this really make?” I leave the final word to the young girl Ekhlas. To her, it would make all the difference in the world. When I asked her yesterday what her hopes were for the future, she replied, “to see justice done for my people.”

She was supported by speeches from other Conservatives, Labour, SNP and Unionist MPs:

Stephen Twigg: “We have an opportunity to heed that warning from the holocaust—“never again”—and to send the message to our own Government, and also to Daesh and the wider international community, that we recognise this as genocide and want action to be taken against the perpetrators of that genocide.” Stephen Timms: “I hope that we can make a clear statement today that this is genocide, both to express solidarity with Yazidis, Christians and Shi’a Muslims who are the victims of this horrifying brutality, and to make clear our determination to ensure that those responsible face prosecution and a just punishment for what they have done…. I want to make some observations on how we can deal with the commitment to religious freedom that we all espouse…. we should be doing more… the Government should appoint a global envoy for religious freedom, who would report directly to the Prime Minister, and establish within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a multi-faith advisory council on religious freedom.” Ian Blackford: “The UN has estimated that 5,000 men were massacred and 7,000 women were enslaved in that action. The women captured by Daesh were sold into sexual slavery, and many were displaced throughout Daesh-controlled territory. As we have heard, the testimony of survivors—Yazidis and Christians—tells of the horrific and daily violence carried out against them, and that has been a deliberate policy on the part of Daesh.” Jim Shannon: “This is not a horror movie—I wish it was. This is taking place just a plane flight away. It is time we called this what it is: it is systematic, it is calculated, and it is genocide.” Sir Edward Leigh: “It would be intolerable for the Government to whip against the motion and force members of the payroll to vote against their own consciences, or abstain. It would also be intolerable if the Government, by some sleight of hand, allowed the motion to be agreed to, and then said that it was not binding on them. If the motion is agreed to—I sincerely hope that the Minister will not speak against it, and that it will not be whipped against—the House of Commons will have spoken, and the Government should act.”

 

 

The Guardian reported the debate as follows:

MPs unanimously declare Yazidis and Christians victims of Isis genocide: British parliament defies government to condemn barbarity of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. A government attempt to prevent MPs from declaring that Islamic State’s treatment of Yazidis and Christians amounted to genocide was crushed on Wednesday, when the Commons voted unanimously to condemn their treatment and refer the issue to the UN security council. It is almost unprecedented for MPs collectively to declare actions in a war as genocide: Full report at:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/20/mps-unanimously-declare-yazidis-victims-of-isis-genocide

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/04/20/world/europe/20reuters-britain-parliament-genocide-islamic-state.html?ref=europe&_r=0

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3550344/UK-parliament-condemns-Islamic-State-violence-genocide.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/isis-is-committing-genocide-against-yazidis-and-christians-british-mps-unanimously-declare-a6994456.html

 

Urgent Question Raised in the House of Lords following the House of Commons Debate

Private Notice Question – genocide Syria and Iraq

Thursday April 21st 2016

 12.04 pm Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to respond to yesterday’s unanimous vote in the House of Commons declaring a genocide against minorities in Syria and Iraq and instructing the Government to refer this to the Security Council.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con)

My Lords, this Government share the House of Commons condemnation of Daesh atrocities against minorities, and the majority Muslim population of Iraq and Syria. That is why we mandated the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Daesh’s crimes in 2014, why we will do everything we can to gather evidence for use by judicial bodies, and why this Government have a comprehensive strategy to defeat Daesh and free people from its barbaric rule.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Has she had a chance to read the Hansard of yesterday’s debate, in particular the reference made by many Members to the disturbing evidence given here to Members of your Lordships’ House and another place by a 16 year-old Yazidi girl, Ekhlas, and accounts of crucifixions, beheadings, systematic rape and mass graves? Has she seen the admission of her ministerial colleague, Tobias Ellwood, that a genocide is under way? Given the unanimous vote of 278 votes to zero, following similar declarations in the United States House of Representatives, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, would it not almost be contempt of Parliament for the Government simply to say that this is non-binding and that they have no intention of following the will of Parliament in taking this matter to the Security Council, so that those responsible for these horrendous crimes will one day meet their Nuremberg moment and be held accountable for them?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, I bear in mind victims of Daesh whom I have personally met, both here and in Iraq. I am not therefore going to get involved in what may or may not be procedural niceties. It is clearly a matter for judicial authorities to determine whether a genocide has taken place. The noble Lord referred to a comment by my honourable friend in another place yesterday, when he expressed his personal view, which he has expressed before, when he said:

“I believe that genocide has taken place”.

He added that,

“as the Prime Minister has said”—

and I am aware that the Prime Minister has written to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this—

“genocide is a matter of legal rather than political opinion. We as the Government are not the prosecutor, the judge or the jury”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/4/16; col. 995.]

We may not be all those things, but I say to Daesh and to the perpetrators that we have a long memory; we have allies, and we are working with the Government of Iraq. We will not forget the perpetrators, and they will pay the price.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)

My Lords, the government Ministers abstained yesterday. Of course, the House of Commons spoke with a clear and unanimous voice yesterday, and there is no doubt that Daesh is killing people because they belong to ethnic, racial or religious groups. What it is doing has all the hallmarks of genocide, as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Government have moved on since the Minister spoke to this House in December, and Tobias Ellwood yesterday repeated what he said earlier in the month that we are helping to gather evidence that could be used to hold Daesh to account appropriately. He said, ultimately—and I repeat what the Minister said—that,

“it is not for Governments to be the prosecutor, judge or jury”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/4/16; col. 996.]

However, can the Minister tell us what progress the Government are making in gathering evidence, and when they intend to take that evidence to the Security Council so that the matter can be referred to the courts?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, I shall address the last part of the noble Lord’s question first, because it covers something that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, properly raised—the Security Council, which was the nub of the resolution passed yesterday in another place. As I said earlier, we have tried to take this matter forward. We were very successful in achieving a resolution about investigations, but not further than that. Further discussions are taking place across the board. Clearly, all right-minded people are trying to find a resolution to this. The collection of information and evidence has to be robustly done. We are making some progress with that simply because of the bravery of organisations which we, alongside other members of the United Nations, help to fund. Yesterday in this House, I launched the Kurdish-language version of the international protocol on the collection and documentation of evidence, which already exists in Arabic. We are making progress, but only because of great risks taken by people who, having collected robust evidence, have to smuggle it out. They are brave indeed.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con)

My Lords, we all appreciate that, technically, the final decision on the genocide label will be taken at the United Nations, but we all surely also recognise that, regardless of various investigations, Daesh is a movement of undiluted evil that has complete contempt for human life and justice and has committed the most appalling atrocities. On the basis of that and of the unanimous view of the other place yesterday, can we be assured that Her Majesty’s Government will at least take the case for the label of genocide to the United Nations, even though we will not be the final body deciding and others will have to join us in doing that?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, as I have made clear, it is not for politicians to determine whether something is genocide; it is a legal decision. In January, I visited the ICC to discuss these matters, and I have discussed them with the International Criminal Court on previous occasions. I also held round-table discussions with academics and lawyers—they are not mutually exclusive, I know—on these matters. It is important that we make progress on reaching a position where it is possible for the ICC to determine whether it will proceed. In the mean time, there are further discussions going ahead around the international community, and all right-minded people want to be sure that we defeat Daesh.

Lord Pannick (CB)

My Lords, the Minister said this is not a matter for politicians. Is she aware of Article VIII of the convention on genocide, which says:

“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”?

Why will the Government not do that?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Because, my Lords, it is the Government’s view that, in order to hold out hope to people who have suffered from the violence of Daesh, one has to be reasonably sure of achieving agreement within the United Nations. We are not confident that that agreement currently exists. That is why we want to make progress with discussions. A lot of work is going on with regard to this. The noble Lord will be more aware than others that genocide, which has a very high threshold, is not the only determination available. There is also crimes against humanity. Let us consider how we get the perpetrators and work together on that.

Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)

My Lords, the Minister suggested that it is not for politicians to make a decision on genocide. As we have heard, there are cases under the treaty where it could be brought. We are not to be judge and jury, but surely political leadership means that we should raise it. It is not good enough simply to say that this should be left to the judge and jury. Does the Minister agree that Her Majesty’s Government should raise this at the UN, reflecting the views of your Lordships’ House during the Immigration Bill and those of the other place?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns
My Lords, as I have made clear, if one wants to persuade the United Nations to pass a resolution on something such as this that means so much to every victim, one should be assured in advance of being able to secure the result that one needs, and that would be for the prevention of genocide. Ultimately, whatever the United Nations determined, it would be for a court to decide whether a genocide had taken place. What has taken place is barbaric action by Daesh, and we need to work together to stop it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36102710

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/21/uk-government-criticised-for-refusing-to-act-on-motion-accusing-isis-of-genocide?CMP=twt_gu

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Written Questions April 21st 2016

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 21 April 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL7816

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Baroness Anelay of St Johns to the private notice question from Lord Alton of Liverpool on 21 April, which members of the United Nations Security Council they believe would veto a referral to the International Criminal Court of evidence of genocide against Christian, Yazidi and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

 

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 21 April 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL7817

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that non-judicial bodies such as the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the US House of Representatives are competent to make a declaration that a genocide is underway; and whether they consider that the UK Parliament can do so, and if not, why not.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 21 April 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

HL7818

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that witness statements by potential genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria are given to the International Criminal Court and that the collection of forensic evidence and the protection of mass graves is prioritised.

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Yazidi Victim – who spoke to MPs and Peers the night before this historic vote –  Requests Meeting with The Prime Minister:

 

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Prior to the debate the following articles and statements appeared:

Times and Guardian pieces on genocide with comments from Baroness Kennedy QC, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom: 

 

 

MPs should vote to define Isis’s brutal crimes as genocide

Jihadists have razed churches and killed religious leaders

avTim Montgomerie writing in The Times

Published at 12:01AM, April 18 2016

A two-year-old girl was placed inside a tin box and, in the punishing August heat of Raqqa, was left in the middle of a courtyard for seven days. Try to rescue your daughter, her mother was warned, and your other two children will die. Having seen her husband and father executed by Isis the woman knew this was not an empty threat. The toddler perished, of course, but only after she had also been beaten and had her tiny back broken. This haunting story was recently told by the human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, ahead of his forthcoming book On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity — and there can be no doubt that what has occurred in occupied parts of Syria and Iraq has been yet another genocide.

The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines it as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. By assassinating church leaders, forcing gunpoint conversions to Islam and demolishing monasteries and churches Isis has systematically attempted to ensure that no church bell ever rings again in the region that was the cradle of Christianity. The Yazidi faith and Shia Muslims are among these evildoers’ other targets.

After the Rwandan massacre of 1994 the world was too slow to designate it as genocide and by the time international investigators began their work much evidence had been lost. Bill Clinton regarded it as his biggest regret as president. Now the world is once again prevaricating and so reducing the likelihood that perpetrators get their “Nuremburg moment” at the International Criminal Court.

The Foreign Office has opposed designation for impenetrable legal reasons — a hesitancy that Boris Johnson has described as “baffling”. This week ministers must decide whether to continue to sit on the fence. The backbench Conservative MP Fiona Bruce has won parliamentary time for the issue to be debated after prime minister’s questions on Wednesday. Other MPs will have little excuse for not sticking around afterwards to support her motion.

The US Holocaust Museum has recommended a genocide designation to raise public consciousness and because “historical memory is a tool of prevention”. With too many misguided Britons still tempted to go and fight for Isis we need that prevention now.

 

 

 

 

Why won’t the government recognise Isis atrocities as genocide? I have a hunch

Giles Fraser  writing in The Guardian on April 20th.

The barbarous treatment of Iraq and Syria’s religious minorities should be called what it is. Our relationship with Turkey shouldn’t even come into it

‘A similar motion was recently passed unanimously in the US House of Representatives. Labour is supporting. So why is the government whipping its members to oppose it? Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Tuesday 19 April 2016 15.06 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 20 April 2016 08.34 BST

Sawsan is a middle-aged Syrian woman from al-Hammidiya, which is just north of the Lebanese border. She describes how her nephew was crucified to death and a video of his crucifixion was put on the internet. He was crucified for wearing a cross. From the same town, Amin described how local girls were taken as sex slaves. Isis returned their body parts to the front door of their parents’ houses with a video tape of them being raped. Alice speaks of how hundreds of children were killed and their bodies ground down in the local baker’s shop in Doma.

These are some of the stories that are going to be told tonight at a meeting in Westminster, ahead of tomorrow’s vote in the House of Commons, when MPs will confirm or deny the recognition: “That this house believes that Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are suffering genocide at the hands of Daesh; and calls upon Her Majesty’s government to make an immediate referral to the United Nations security council with a view to conferring jurisdiction upon the international criminal court so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

It may not be coincidence that Turkey is our new best friend, with whom we have struck a deal over returning refugees

A similar motion was recently passed unanimously in the US House of Representatives. Labour is supporting. So why – as things currently stand – is the government intent on whipping its members to oppose this motion, even though it is being put forward by a Conservative MP, Fiona Bruce? The devil is in the detail.

It’s not that the government is denying that Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities are suffering genocide in Iraq and Syria. Its official line is that it’s not for parliament to claim something counts as genocide but for the judiciary. And yes, genocide is a legal term, invented to describe the particular sort of horror that the Nazis perpetrated on the Jewish people – “a crime without a name” Churchill had previously called it. As Phillipe Sands observes in his forthcoming book about the origins of the term, it was first used by a Brit in court in Nuremburg in June 1946, almost exactly 70 years ago, by the Tory Sir David Maxwell Fyfe in his cross examination of Konstantin von Neurath, Hitler’s first foreign minister.

Bones, hair and traditional Yazidi garb at the site of a suspected mass grave near the town of Sinjar, Iraq. Photograph: Sam Tarling for the Guardian

But the problem with this being simply a matter for the judiciary is that there currently exists no process for concerns about genocide to pass from parliament to the judiciary. As cross-bench peer Lord Alton put it to me: “Having no formal mechanism to refer evidence of genocide to the high court simply leads to government buck-passing and hand-wringing. They repeatedly say that determining whether a genocide is under way is a matter for the courts but then refuse to provide a trigger for a referral. Parliament – as Congress and the European parliament have done – needs to force the government’s hand. Otherwise we might as well rip up the genocide convention as a worthless piece of paper. If what is happening to groups like the Yazidis and Assyrian Christians doesn’t meet the high technical standard of what constitutes a genocide, it’s hard to imagine what would.”

 Isis is committing genocide. It is indefensible for Britain not to say so

((Baroness) Helena Kennedy QC

Baroness Kennedy

(Baroness) Helena Kennedy QC – human rights lawyer

 

Read more

But there may be more to it than a technical problem of process. For it may not be any coincidence that Turkey is our new best friend, with whom we have struck a deal over returning refugees from Greece. And Turkey is profoundly allergic to the “g” word, reminding people, as it often does, of Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people in 1915, the first genocide of the 20th century. Not only that, but many of the threatened Yazidis, for example, are supported by the Kurds and Kurdish pashmerga who are seen as terrorists by the Turkish government. The suspicion is that our Foreign Office doesn’t want to upset the Turks with tomorrow’s vote and are thus encouraging the government to whip against it on a technicality.

We really ought to be braver than this. OK, I don’t suppose that those who are prepared to blow themselves up in the name of their twisted values are going to be all that terrified by the prospect of the international criminal court. But when religious minorities are set upon with such systematic ferocity and brutality, it is right and proper that our parliament calls it what it is. The government should withdraw its whip. It owes it to Sawsan, Amin and Alice – and to hundreds of thousands like them.

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cardinal nichols

Comment from Cardinal Vincent Nichols : 

 

My most sincere hope is that Wednesday’s debate will create a consensus about what more the UK can do, resolve the questions surrounding a referral to the ICC and ensure that the genocidal crimes of ISIS are punished.

 

As you will see, an article by Bishop Declan Lang, in his capacity as Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department for International Affairs,  highlights the evil being committed by Daesh against minority communities and acknowledges the importance of formally recognising genocide.

 

I sincerely hope that MPs will take the opportunity this week to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of efforts to defeat Daesh and support those communities that have suffered under its barbarity.

 

+Vincent

 

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bishop-angaelos 

Coptic Orthodox Church UK

Media and Communications Office

 

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)

                                Media and Communications Office

 

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom on the upcoming Genocide Debate in the House of Commons

19 April 2016

With the recent welcomed recognition by the European Parliament and the United States Congress and Administration of ‘acts of genocide’ against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, the upcoming House of Commons debate on this matter will be looked upon with anticipation by many.

As the issue of genocide is deliberated upon in light of the genuine suffering of vulnerable men, women and children, we pray wisdom upon all those taking part in the debate.

If the British Parliament recognises these violations as genocide, along with other parliamentary bodies around the world, this will allow an essential co-ordinated approach across the international community for the protection of the sanctity and dignity of God-given human life.

While appreciative of all that continues to be done around the world, including this upcoming debate, the solution at the heart of the issue is a realisation of the value of every life. This is why we not only pray for those who fall victim to these crimes, but for those who continue to carry them out, that there is a greater understanding of our shared humanity and the pain and loss that is caused to us all through the taking of any life.

*Ends*

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PARLIAMENT DECLARES GENOCIDE IN MIDDLE EAST, ASKS GOVERNMENT TO ACT AT UN

Fiona Bruce MP is a Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea

MPs have today passed a historic motion which clearly condemns the actions of Daesh in Syria and Iraq as genocide, and calls on the Government to empower the International Criminal Court to take action. The motion is the culmination of mounting pressure on the government to accept that ISIS is committing genocide. This clear recognition requires immediate action on the part of the Government. It specifically requires the Government to seek a referral of the deteriorating situation tothe International Criminal Court.

The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over only the four most serious international crimes, including genocide. In order to act in this case, the Court requires a referral from the UN Security Council.

Speaking after the debate, Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, who had brought the motion before the House said, “The acts being committed by Daesh against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, including Yazidis and Christians, are unspeakably barbaric, and would be hard to truly believe if we did not have harrowing first-hand eyewitness accounts.” Commenting on the importance of the genocide designation, Fiona Bruce MP added, “These actions are not random – they are, as Daesh have publicly said, part of a strategy to destroy minority communities in Iraq and Syria. That is the very definition of genocide.”

The crime of genocide has a specific legal definition, developed in the wake of the Nazi atrocities of the Second World War. It captures a number of crimes, serious in their own right – murder, rape, torture – but only when committed with the intention of wiping out a people group on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity or nationality.

The number of Christians has dropped from over 2 million to 1 million in Syria, and from 1.4 million to under 260,000 in Iraq. The Yazidis in the region of Kurdistan have been almost entirely wiped out. Ahead of the vote, MPs heard first-hand from a 16 year old Yazidi survivor who told of her time held captive by ISIS: “They came to wipe us all out”, she said. Accounts such as these are tragically plentiful. During the debate, Fiona Bruce MP explained,  “never before during a genocide has the international community had such a full record of what was happening.”

ENDS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch Premier Radio’s Stop the Genocide Video; Times Leader “Christians are victims of genocidal terror”. Boris Johnson “baffled” by Foreign Office; Daily Telegraph and Com Res Poll Call for Genocide Declaration; Full text of House of Lords Genocide debate and previous posts.

genoicde iraq 2genoicde iraq.4

Two images sent from Christians in Iraq.

With the focus on terrorism nearer home it is easy to forget the realities of life for those living under the rule of ISIS.

Please watch this short video which explains what is going on and why adding your name to the Stop the Genocide Campaign is so important.

click here…

http://www.stopthegenocide.org.uk/?dm_i=16DQ%2C44YWY%2CMDTJ2E%2CF18SR%2C1&utm_campaign=6950338_Stop%20the%20Genocide%20Video%201&utm_content=button&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Premier%20Christian%20Media#!urgent-video-message/fdfyk

 

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March 28th: Times Leader “Christians are victims of genocidal terror”. Boris Johnson “baffled” by Foreign Office; Report suggests priest was crucified on Good Friday. Daily Telegraph and Com Res Poll Call for Genocide Declaration but Government Oppose Genocide Amendment. Read Guardian coverage; Op-Ed piece by Lord Alton and Baroness Cox ,full debate on genocide, Easter Day Homily by Bishop Mark Davies, and earlier posts on genocide against Christians and Yazidis. New Petition Launched

8 Votes

wilberforce quote.jpg

 

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.”

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12205262/Bravo-for-Assad-he-is-a-vile-tyrant-but-he-has-saved-Palmyra-from-Isil.html

 

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.”

 

https://davidalton.net/2016/03/28/carnage-in-lahore-pakistan-and-uk-governments-failure-to-challenge-persecution-or-the-culture-of-impunity-links-to-previous-posts-about-pakistans-christians-shahbaz-bhatti-asia-bibbi-and-the/

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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)

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Conservative Home Page: Luke de Pulford, member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission:

http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2016/03/luke-de-pulford-as-genocide-is-wreaked-on-the-yazadis-the-foreign-office-averts-its-eyes.html?utm_campaign=twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitter

Genocide Petition: sign here – 

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/121879/

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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.

Also see:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/432940/john-kerry-isis-genocide-declared

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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 atsimon.caldwell@dioceseofshrewsbury.org   Twitter:@ShrewsRCnews 

Website: www.dioceseofshrewsbury.org

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Isis is committing genocide. It is indefensible for Britain not to say so | Helena Kennedy: click here to read:

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/21/isis-genocide-britain-yazidis
Daily Telegraph Editorial

 Telegraph View
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.

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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

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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.

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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).

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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:
• murder;
• extermination;
• enslavement;
• deportation and forcible transfers of populations;
• imprisonment;
• torture;
• 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:
• murder;
• 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;
• pillaging;
• 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.

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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”.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2153

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.

8.45 pm

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”.

He added:

“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.

9 pm

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.

9.15 pm

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.

9.30 pm

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?

9.45 pm

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.

10 pm

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

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2174

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.

10.15 pm

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

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2175

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

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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.

10.31 pm

Division on Amendment 121

Contents 111; Not-Contents 148.

Amendment 121 disagreed.

Division No.  2

CONTENTS

Alderdice, L.

Allan of Hallam, L.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Beith, L.

Benjamin, B.

Berkeley of Knighton, L.

Best, L.

Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.

Bowles of Berkhamsted, B.

Brennan, L.

Brinton, B.

Brookman, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Bruce of Bennachie, L.

Burnett, L.

Carlile of Berriew, L.

Chelmsford, Bp.

Chester, Bp.

Cotter, L.

Cox, B. [Teller]

Elton, L.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Fearn, L.

Featherstone, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Foster of Bath, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

German, L.

Glasgow, E.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Greaves, L.

Green of Deddington, L.

Greengross, B.

Grender, B.

Hamwee, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Humphreys, B.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Hylton, L. [Teller]

Jolly, B.

Jones, L.

Jowell, B.

Kennedy of The Shaws, B.

Kerslake, L.

Kidron, B.

Kilclooney, L.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Kramer, B.

Lawson of Blaby, L.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

Listowel, E.

Ludford, B.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

Maddock, B.

Manzoor, B.

Marlesford, L.

Masham of Ilton, B.

Mawson, L.

Moore of Lower Marsh, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Murphy of Torfaen, L.

Newby, L.

Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.

Northover, B.

Norwich, Bp.

Paddick, L.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Pannick, L.

Parminter, B.

Patel, L.

Pinnock, B.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Ramsbotham, L.

Randerson, B.

Razzall, L.

Rees of Ludlow, L.

Rennard, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Sandwich, E.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Scriven, L.

Sharkey, L.

Sharp of Guildford, B.

Sheehan, B.

Shinkwin, L.

Shipley, L.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Smith of Newnham, B.

Somerset, D.

Steel of Aikwood, L.

Stephen, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Strasburger, L.

Stunell, L.

Suttie, B.

Taverne, L.

Taylor of Goss Moor, L.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2180

Taylor of Warwick, L.

Teverson, L.

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Tonge, B.

Tope, L.

Tyler, L.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walmsley, B.

Whitaker, B.

Willis of Knaresborough, L.

NOT CONTENTS

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Altmann, B.

Anelay of St Johns, B.

Arbuthnot of Edrom, L.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Barker of Battle, L.

Bates, L.

Berridge, B.

Blencathra, L.

Borwick, L.

Bottomley of Nettlestone, B.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Brady, B.

Bridgeman, V.

Bridges of Headley, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Byford, B.

Caithness, E.

Callanan, L.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Cathcart, E.

Cavendish of Furness, L.

Chadlington, L.

Chisholm of Owlpen, B.

Colwyn, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Courtown, E.

Crathorne, L.

De Mauley, L.

Deben, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dobbs, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Evans of Bowes Park, B.

Fairfax of Cameron, L.

Farmer, L.

Faulks, L.

Feldman of Elstree, L.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Fink, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Finn, B.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Fowler, L.

Freud, L.

Gardiner of Kimble, L. [Teller]

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

Gilbert of Panteg, L.

Goodlad, L.

Hague of Richmond, L.

Hailsham, V.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Harding of Winscombe, B.

Harris of Peckham, L.

Hayward, L.

Helic, B.

Higgins, L.

Hodgson of Abinger, B.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Home, E.

Horam, L.

Howard of Lympne, L.

Howard of Rising, L.

Howe, E.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Inglewood, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jopling, L.

Keen of Elie, L.

King of Bridgwater, L.

Kirkham, L.

Lamont of Lerwick, L.

Lang of Monkton, L.

Lansley, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lingfield, L.

Liverpool, E.

Lupton, L.

Lyell, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

McIntosh of Pickering, B.

Mancroft, L.

Mobarik, B.

Montrose, D.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Moynihan, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newlove, B.

Noakes, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

O’Neill of Gatley, L.

Oppenheim-Barnes, B.

O’Shaughnessy, L.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Pidding, B.

Polak, L.

Popat, L.

Porter of Spalding, L.

Prior of Brampton, L.

Ribeiro, L.

Risby, L.

Robathan, L.

Rock, B.

Rotherwick, L.

Scott of Bybrook, B.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sheikh, L.

Shephard of Northwold, B.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shields, B.

Shrewsbury, E.

Skelmersdale, L.

Smith of Hindhead, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Sterling of Plaistow, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Suri, L.

Taylor of Holbeach, L. [Teller]

Trefgarne, L.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2181

Trenchard, V.

True, L.

Tugendhat, L.

Ullswater, V.

Verma, B.

Wakeham, L.

Warsi, B.

Wasserman, L.

Wei, L.

Wilcox, B.

Willetts, L.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Young of Cookham, L.

Younger of Leckie, V.

10.43 pm

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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
justice.

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
Syria.

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
barbarism?”

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
say so.

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
reading stage.

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
objective” result.

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:

http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=29606

March 10th 2016:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/march/do-christians-face-genocide-isis-john-kerry-syria-iraq.html?visit_source=twitter

 

March 5th 2016: 1192 UN CONVENTION ON THE PREVENTION AND PUNISHMENT OF GENOCIDE                   

 

Robert Flello

Sir David Amess

Stephen Gethins

John Mc Nally

Martyn Day

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.

February 22nd

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/12169130/Isil-attacks-on-Christians-and-Yazidis-genocide-say-peers.html

Follow this link to all posts on genocide against Christians and Yazidi- including the Resolutions of the  Council of Europe and the European parliament:   

https://davidalton.net/2016/01/27/christian-and-yazidi-murders-at-the-hands-of-isis-must-be-classed-as-genocide-peers-and-mps-urge-un-to-act/

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

House of Lords Crest

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.

Yours ever,

Lord Alton of Liverpool
Vice Chair
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

Baroness Cox

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:   

https://davidalton.net/2016/01/27/christian-and-yazidi-murders-at-the-hands-of-isis-must-be-classed-as-genocide-peers-and-mps-urge-un-to-act/

February 21st:

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/646013/Christian-refugees-hatred-Europe-charity?_ga=1.184691945.1325128565.1417106796

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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Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan? Timeline of terror attacks on minorities. Carnage in Lahore – Pakistan and UK Governments Failure to Challenge Persecution or the Culture of Impunity. Links to previous posts about Pakistan’s Christians, Shahbaz Bhatti, Asia Bibbi, and the report on systematic persecution of the country’s minorities.

MRC Newsletter – May 2016

The Sunday Times April 3rd 2016 

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/how-many-kids-have-to-die-before-pakistan-stops-sponsoring-militancy/news-story/9969dd643b5fe7abac81b1ed1d3ff92b

 

 

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/newsreview/features/article1683937.ece

 

scan0003

See the Daily Times –Pakistan

 Where is Jinnah’s Pakistan? by Nasir Saeed  March 31, 2016

Saeed writes: “Instead of recognising minorities’ role in the making of Pakistan, and considering them equal citizens, it was suggested that non-Muslims had to enter into a covenant with the Islamic state. Sadly, because of Quaid-e-Azam’s untimely death, we lost his vision. The factions and groups who opposed the idea of Pakistan and Jinnah, began emphasising their ideas of Islam, which led to extremism, division in society and hatred against minorities. Politicians and bureaucrats intentionally ignored minorities to avoid confrontation with religious extremists, and until today we are reluctant to consider minorities equal citizens of Pakistan. Many Muslims still believe that non-Muslims are dhimmi, while a few consider them mohaideen (non-Muslims who have entered into contract with an Islamic government. But according to the founder of Pakistan, they are not dhimmi or mohaideen, but first, second and lastly are equal citizens of Pakistan. Pakistan was achieved as a result of democratic struggle.”

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/31-Mar-2016/where-is-jinnah-s-pakistan

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/E-Paper/lahore/2016-03-31/page-7

————————————————————————–

Subject: An article with a timeline of major attacks on minorities in Pakistan

http://tribune.com.pk/story/721785/timeline-attacks-on-minorities/

————————————————————————–

The war on Christians

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/03/the-war-on-christians/

————————————————————————–

Attempt to prevent the world from seeing the conditions in which escaping Pakistani Christian refugees are kept:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/thailand-bans-relief-groups-from-visiting-pakistani-christian-asylum-seekers-held-brutal-detention-centers-160362/

————————————————————————–

Carnage in Lahore –  Pakistan and UK Governments Failure to Challenge Persecution or the Culture of Impunity 

Pakistan christins

Just one month ago, I launched a report in Parliament which catalogues the systematic campaign targeting Pakistan’s religious minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis, a campaign played out in a culture of impunity. The report followed evidence taking sessions, witness statements, and a visit I made to a detention centre where escaping Pakistani Christians are held.

 

  The assassination, five years ago, of the country’s Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was the curtain raiser for an orgy of bombings, killings, rapes, imprisonment and abductions, of which the Lahore massacre is the latest bloody and shocking example.

 

  In 1947, Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality and diversity and to protect all its citizens.  Jinnah said: “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State…Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed”. 

 

   In the aftermath of this systematic campaign of visceral hatred there is little evidence that Pakistan’s contemporary leaders are doing anything whatsoever to uphold Jinnah’s vision – and, equally, there is little evidence that more than £1 billion of British aid, given over the past two years, is doing anything to support beleaguered minorities, often the poorest of the poor, or to promote religious freedom or peaceful co-existence.

 

  Just as disturbing as the UK Government’s refusal to describe the annihilation of Christians in Iraq and Syria as the genocide that it patently is, in Pakistan they say Christians in Pakistan merely experience “discrimination” not persecution. They should tell the grieving, mourning, families of Lahore how they come to that conclusion.

 

stop-killing-christians-in-pakistan

————————————————————————-

Please find an immediate link to the BBC documentary on detained Pakistani Christians. The password is Pakistan.

https://vimeo.com/user18375217/review/156847557/edd7ed8b33

Password: Pakistan

Also see:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804 and

Chris Rogers’ Disturbing Report for the BBC on the conditions of Pakistani Christians held in detention centres: 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804

For background also see:

https://davidalton.net/2015/11/18/dr-paul-bhatti-addresses-members-of-both-houses-of-parliament-as-persecution-of-christians-and-other-minorities-continues-to-be-raised-in-the-british-parliament-parliamentarians-paid-ribute-to-the-me/

https://davidalton.net/2016/02/23/report-launched-at-westmintser-on-the-persecution-of-religious-minorities-in-pakistan/

 

19 February 2016

APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief Inquiry Finds UK Government Policy on Pakistani Religious Minorities Inadequate

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On Wednesday, 24 February, the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief launches its inquiry report on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan & UK Government Policy. The report challenges the Home Office’s Country Information and Guidance on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts while also finding that Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus in Pakistan face a real risk of persecution, the likelihood of which depends on their encounters with and actions amongst people of other faiths or beliefs.

 

The APPG inquiry’s main findings and recommendations include an urgent requirement for a new country guidance case regarding Pakistani Christians to provide sufficient and accurate guidance for Pakistani Christian asylum cases. At the very least, the APPG urges the Home Office to limit the use of the current AK and SK country guidance case in its Country Information and Guidance (CIG) report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts to be used only for cases involving Evangelical Christians and blasphemy charges from non-State actors. In the report, the APPG urges the Home Office to acknowledge the strong evidence highlighting Pakistani authorities’ failure to protect minority religious communities from rights violations and amend its CIGs accordingly. The inquiry also highlights concerns about the possibility of internal relocation of Pakistani religious minorities, which the APPG urges the UK Home Office to recognise as unsafe and unviable.

 

Home Office staff involved in asylum cases, including interviewers, interpreters, case workers and presenting officers, are also recommended by the APPG to be sufficiently sensitised and trained in the different religious doctrines and terminologies of religious denominations in Pakistan, as well as the cultural contexts which have enabled and supported the persecution of members of Pakistan’s minority religious communities.

 

Furthermore, the APPG urges the UK Department for International Development to ensure that overseas development assistance is only provided to organisations and government departments in Pakistan that can demonstrate their understanding of and commitment to upholding Pakistan’s international human rights obligations. This appeal is made in conjunction with the recommendation that the Government of Pakistan be supported in maintaining its international obligations that include protecting freedom of religion or belief, repealing punishments that are cruel, inhumane and degrading or amount to torture and preventing hatred and incitement to violence that is broadcast on Pakistani media channels, including in the UK.

 

The APPG inquiry into the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan and as asylum seekers stems Lord Alton’s visit to UNHCR’s Bangkok detention camp. During the visit, it was discovered that the UK Home Office’s CIG Report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts, which states that such individuals are not at “a real risk of persecution”, was being used to justify unduly prolonging granting asylum to Christians fleeing Pakistan. The APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief subsequently launched an inquiry into the treatment of different religious communities in Pakistan and the adequacy of current UK Government policy regarding these communities. The report due to be launched on Wednesday 24th February is the result of the APPG’s three-month long investigations and analysis which draws on evidence from over 20 organisations, lawyers and academics.

At the launch of the report Lord Alton said:

Our report emerged from a visit to the detention centre in Bangkok where escaping Pakistan Christians are kept in degrading conditions. Instead of being helped to find asylum they have been left to fester while being told by the UNHCR that their cases will take years to process.  In London, we then held evidence  sessions at Westminster at which parliamentarians heard accounts of Christians being burnt alive, bombed, tortured, raped or mown down by murderers – while those responsible have been protected by a culture of impunity.  Others have been imprisoned on spurious charges.  

 

The official line of the UK Government is that there is no persecution, the reality is the opposite of that and our report dispenses with that illusion.

 

Pakistan is the biggest recipient of British aid – more than £1 billion in the last couple of years – and we should be demanding that British aid is used to protect minorities and to staunch the flow of refugees. And we need to dispense with the fiction that the Christian minority, and other minorities are treated fairly and justly. There is outright persecution and we should not hesitate in saying so.

Previous Posts

https://davidalton.net/2012/03/02/first-anniversary-of-the-killing-of-shahbaz-bhatti-one-of-a-long-line-who-have-courageously-given-their-lives-for-their-beliefs-and-for-their-friends/

 

https://davidalton.net/2012/02/22/shahbaz-bhatti-one-year-on-since-his-brutal-assassination-what-to-make-of-his-sacrificial-life-and-the-treatment-of-minorities-in-pakistan/

 

https://davidalton.net/2012/01/23/pakistans-treatment-of-minorities-and-the-murder-of-shahbaz-bhatti-and-salman-taseer/

 

https://davidalton.net/2016/02/23/report-launched-at-westmintser-on-the-persecution-of-religious-minorities-in-pakistan/

 

https://davidalton.net/2015/11/18/dr-paul-bhatti-addresses-members-of-both-houses-of-parliament-as-persecution-of-christians-and-other-minorities-continues-to-be-raised-in-the-british-parliament-parliamentarians-paid-ribute-to-the-me/

 

https://davidalton.net/2015/09/06/evidence-taking-sessions-with-pakistani-christians-september-2015/

 

https://davidalton.net/2015/07/05/stop-killing-christians-persecution-of-christians-around-the-globe-to-be-debated-in-the-house-of-lords-on-july-16th-and-what-franz-werfels-novel-the-forty-days-of-musa-dagh-and-the-armenian-ge/

 

https://davidalton.net/2014/10/18/save-asia-bibi-christian-woman-facing-execution-in-pakistan/

 

https://davidalton.net/2014/03/08/paying-a-price-for-belief/

 

https://davidalton.net/2013/05/26/pakistan-and-religious-violence-debated-in-parliament-as-jihadists-murder-drummer-lee-rigby-in-woolwich/

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TEOBIlZs1I&context=C3edb8c0ADOEgsToPDskJ55Bb422uTeEmiNJll-Iiz   https://davidalton.net/?s=shahbaz+Bhatti&x=8&y=13

 

First Anniversary of the Killing of Shahbaz Bhatti – one of a long line who have courageously given their lives for their beliefs and for their friends…

MARCH 2, 2012EDIT

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TEOBIlZs1I&context=C3edb8c0ADOEgsToPDskJ55Bb422uTeEmiNJll-Iiz   https://davidalton.net/?s=shahbaz+Bhatti&x=8&y=13   This weekend marks the first anniversary of the assassination of Clement Shahbaz Bhatti. Aged 42, the life of Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, was cut short by self described Taliban assassins. His murderers scattered pamphlets describing him as a “Christian infidel”. The leaflets were signed “Taliban al-Qaida Punjab.”

Shahbaz Bhatti – one year on since his brutal assassination: what to make of his sacrificial life and the treatment of minorities in Pakistan

FEBRUARY 22, 2012EDIT

The First Anniversary of the Death of Shahbaz Bhatti David Alton   On March 2nd, 2011, aged 42, Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, was brutally murdered. His assassination not only robbed Pakistan’s National Assembly of a dedicated, honest, and able politician but his death also threw into sharp relief the plight of […]

Pakistan’s Treatment of Minorities and the Murder of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer

JANUARY 23, 2012EDIT

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2012/01/lord-alton-speaks-out-for-minorities-in.html Pakistan Question January 19th 2012. 11.29 am Asked by Baroness Falkner of Margravine To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Pakistan and other interested parties regarding the current political situation in Pakistan. Baroness Warsi: My Lords, when I visited Pakistan last week, I called on Prime Minister […]

March 2nd: 5th Anniversary of the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti. February 24th: Report Launched at Westminster on the Persecution of Religious Minorities In Pakistan. Link to Chris Rogers Disturbing Report for the BBC.

FEBRUARY 23, 2016EDIT

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/26-february/news/world/home-office-guidance-on-pakistan-has-serious-flaws-say-mpshttp://www.leadfamily.blogspot.comhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072sbqr/our-world-thailands-asylum-crackdown Watch Chris Rogers’ disturbing documentary on the plight of incarcerated Pakistani Christians held in detention centres in Bangkok. You will need to use the password: Pakistan and click on this link:https://vimeo.com/user18375217/review/156847557/edd7ed8b33For UK viewers:http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072sbqr/our-world-thailands-asylum-crackdown http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/01-Mar-2016/pakistani-minorities-and-the-british-parliament   See Chris Rogers’ Disturbing Report for the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804 BBC ON LINEhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35654804   BBC […]

Debate on Overseas Aid – Is aid to Pakistan challenging intolerance and persecution and helping minorities? Dr.Paul Bhatti addresses members of both Houses of Parliament as persecution of Christians and other minorities continues to be raised in the British Parliament. Parliamentarians paid ribute to the memory of his murdered brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities in Pakistan.

NOVEMBER 18, 2015EDIT

19 Nov 2015 : Column 372  7.01 pm  Debate on Overseas Aid – Is aid to Pakistan challenging intolerance  and persecution and helping minorities?   Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for initiating this debate and join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Barker of Battle, on his maiden […]

October Hearing on Eritrea to be followed by November Hearings in Parliament on Pakistani Christians and other minorities – Call for Evidence – Latest Replies From The British Government on Pakistani Escapees; New article “Why does the world stand idle as Pakistan persecutes Christians?”

SEPTEMBER 6, 2015EDIT

ERITREA: Briefing in Parliament organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, to be chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool, on Tuesday October 20th at 2.00pm in Committee Room 2A of the House of Lords.  Opening Comments by lord Alton   The Current Situation The human rights situation in Eritrea is one of the most deplorable in the […]

Full transcript: House of July 16 Lords Debate on Article 18: Stop Killing Christians – including speeches by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, and other senior Peers from many faith and humanist backgrounds

JULY 5, 2015EDIT

Freedom of Religion and Belief Motion to Take Note Watch the debate at: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/53d07cde-20ee-4f53-80d3-f4c075deb3d0?in=16:20:35https://freedomdeclared.org/   4.20 pm Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool To move that this House takes note of worldwide violations of Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the case for greater priority to be given by […]

Save Asia Bibi – Christian woman facing execution in Pakistan

OCTOBER 18, 2014EDIT

The recent decision to award Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize was a good one for women and a good one for Pakistan but the decision to sentence Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, to death was a bad one for all women, all minorities, people of all faiths, and Pakistan. The brutal killing of a […]

Paying A Price For Belief – the Assyrian Christians abducted by ISIS and face execution. Also, recent parliamentary interventions and the paltry sum we set aside to promote freedom of religion and belief

MARCH 8, 2014EDIT

Also see: July 1st 2015 article on the targeting of Christians worldwide: http://www.geopolitical-info.com/en/article/1435726790089290800 8.01 pm: Thursday June 25th, 2015  Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):⁠ My Lords, Syria is the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our time, generating the largest movement of displaced people since World War II. We are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady […]

More than 80 Churchgoers were murdered in Pakistan -100,000 Christians killed each year – An Appeal for Religious Freedom and Toleration.

MAY 26, 2013EDIT

Report of A Lecture Given to The Disraeli Society at Christ Church, the University of Oxford, October 2013.http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/opinion/columns/10766682.YOURS_FAITHFULLY__Let___s_be_tolerant_of_other_people___s_beliefs/At the very moment when the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was taking place in Woolwich, the House of Lords had just begun a debate about religious violence in Pakistan. Pakistan: Religious Violence Read full debate

 

 

 

 

What Chesterton had to say about the Resurrection;Good Friday and Easter Reflections – From the Holy Week Carnage of Brussels, Sneha Mehta’s message of hope to her unborn child – a promise of new life

What Chesterton had to say about the Resurrection:

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Maundy Thursday: Pope Francis washes the feet of refugees…

http://time.com/4271679/pope-muslim-migrants-brothers/?xid=time_socialflow_facebook

 

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Carrying their cross

Why the United Kingdom should start acting on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East

 

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Good Friday 2016 in Lancashire

On Good Friday, Christians will pray and – in many churches – also walk the way of the cross – the Via Dolorosa – a tradition dear to those who attend the Easter services. Each year I am profoundly moved as I watch my sons shoulder our own parish cross as they, and other parishioners, carry it to a joint Good Friday Service with Christians from other denominations.

The Via Dolorosa – the way of sorrows, the way of grief, the way of suffering – is commemorated in the fourteen stations of Jesus’ suffering. Pausing at each we try to understand what was happening on the way to Mount Calvary – the place where the most inspiring figure in history was executed. To more than a billion believers, He is more than just an inspiration. Having suffered greatly Himself, the Son of God represents redemption to all of mankind.

Over the centuries, Christians have lived in the knowledge that they are subject to persecution for their faith. Today, Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world.  However there is one particular region of the world where the suffering of Christians has reached levels of persecution comparable to what the early Christians experienced under the Roman Emperor Nero – where their existence is under threat of eradication.

The cross is not just something Christians in the Middle East under the reign of the so-called “Islamic State” or Daesh will be remembering when they will join their brothers and sisters in faith around the world during this year’s Easter celebrations. They may be facing it themselves – as they have done for the last two years.

There is no need to endlessly recount the atrocities Christians in the Iraq and Syria have been subjected to. Abundant evidence is accessible to everyone online. All major newspapers, radio and television stations have reported on the beheadings, the rapes, the crucifixions, the abductions, the intentional targeting of Church leaders and strategic destruction of Church buildings. There are very few instances of such crimes against humanity being committed where the perpetrators have been so outspoken about their goals and objectives to the global public.

Daesh have issued countless statements, video-messages and official declarations clearly stating that there is no room for any religion other than Islam – and only their particular version of Islam – in areas under their control. In fact, there might be hardly anyone who is yet to be confronted with the reports of extreme violence carried out against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Modern technology has enabled all of us to become eye witnesses, in a way, to what is happening.

And yet despite our awareness we react like the Apostle Peter on the night Jesus was arrested: we claim to have nothing to do with what is going on. We refrain from officially recognising that the ongoing plight of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq is a genocide, even though all the criteria defined under international law that determines the “crime of all crimes” appear to be met. We rather vaguely defer the matter to the judgment of the international judicial system, wash our hands and remain silent, while Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities are being forced to shoulder their own cross and continue their march towards Calvary.

Of course, use of the term genocide should not be made lightly. Its recognition sets into motion legal obligations to “prevent and punish” acts of genocide. If we take human rights seriously, we would be obliged to start acting and to actively seek ways to bring this genocide to an end. As a permanent member to the UN Security Council, the United Kingdom could play a highly influential role in referring the ongoing situation in Syria and Iraq to the International Criminal Court.

Alternatively, the U.K. could use its influence to call upon the UN Security Council to establish a commission of fact-finding experts, which could lead to the establishment of an international tribunal, as was the case with the genocides committed in Bosnia and Rwanda. Either option would ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators and bring justice to the victims. However, the main objective would be to bring an end to the killings.

A recent ComRes poll commissioned by legal organisation ADF International showed that just under two-thirds of the British public support not only an official recognition of genocide, but also believe that the U.K. should use its international influence to bring the genocide to an end. 69% of the public was of the view that the U.K. should be looking to raise the issue with the United Nations Security Council with the aim of referring the situation to the International Criminal Court – a proposition that only 7% opposed. The Government however seems to be of a quite different opinion, as it has not yet engaged the UN Security Council on either of the aforementioned fronts.

Standing up for religious minorities in the Middle East may come at a cost. France has always been very clear on its concern about the ongoing atrocities being carried out in the Middle East, and the European Parliament recently condemned the Daesh atrocities as genocide in early February. Both have paid an incredibly high price for their courage. The appalling bombings in Paris, and more recently in Brussels, could well be perceived – at least in part – as retribution for open opposition to Daesh. Courage provokes consequences. But to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as Baroness Cox did in a recent debate on the topic in the House of Lords; “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.” 

For Christians, the cross has always been a sign of hope. At Easter, we remember that after death comes life; that after having carried the cross, resurrection awaits. It is my hope that this Easter, we all keep our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East firmly in mind, and that we do not neglect them as they continue to carry their weighty cross along their Via Dolorosa.

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.  In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.  What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.”  (G. K. Chesterton; The Everlasting Man)

G.K.Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton and the Resurrection

‘God raised Jesus from the dead!’  This was the fundamental and unalterable testimony of those who had physically seen Jesus dead and then alive again.  The historical fact of Jesus resurrection is the ground and basis of all true love, hope, and joy; for if Jesus is still in the grave then all of humanity will remain in the grave too.  But he is not in the grave, and this makes all the difference.  Now those who put their hope in Jesus may find their way into a fullness of joy: partially in this world; fully in the next.  May praise to God and joy in Jesus be the main thing in your Easter.  He is risen indeed! 

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.  Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.  Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live…The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss.  To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth.  The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on.  But when he has found his feet again he knows it.  Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small…Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. 

     The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels [namely, Jesus] towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall.  His pathos was natural, almost casual.  The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears.  He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city.  Yet He concealed something.  Solemn Super-men and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger.  He never restrained His anger.  He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell.  Yet He restained something.  I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness.  There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray.  There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation.  There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth. (“Orthdodoxy” ).

 

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Easter Sunday

The Christ is risen the preachers say
“Cry, for today is Easter Day”.

Yea; if the dead might rise; then he
Might rise for one thing verily.

He has not heard the mouths that moved
The faint and fallen that he loved

The wheels that rack, the lips that rave
Stern is God’s guard about the grave.

Peace—for the priests in gold array—
Peace—for today is Easter day.

The bannered pomp: the pontiffs wise
(Great God—methinks he might arise) via dolorosa

Might break for once from death’s eclipse
To smite these liars on the lips.

Passover 2016 begins in the evening of Friday, April 22
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Some Good Friday/Easter Day reflections:

https://davidalton.net/2015/07/05/stop-killing-christians-persecution-of-christians-around-the-globe-to-be-debated-in-the-house-of-lords-on-july-16th-and-what-franz-werfels-novel-the-forty-days-of-musa-dagh-and-the-armenian-ge/

https://davidalton.net/2010/12/23/a-faith-worth-dying-for-is-worth-living-for/

https://davidalton.net/2012/04/06/easter-2012-what-easter-means-to-me/

https://davidalton.net/2011/04/22/a-parable-for-good-friday-and-what-easter-means-to-me/

https://davidalton.net/2010/12/23/palm-sunday-and-easter-2008/

https://davidalton.net/2010/12/23/easter-2003-column/

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From the Holy Week Carnage of Brussels, Sneha Mehta’s message of hope to her unborn child – a promise of new life:

letter to an unborn child

 

 

Sneha Mehta is 28 years old, 16 weeks pregnant and a survivor of the suicide attacks on the Brussels airport.

She and her husband had just landed  after a trip to Dubai. They had collected their luggage when the explosions began.

Through the smoke they made their escape, initially into a car park and then out onto the road nearby where a passing taxi stopped and drove them to safety.

Sneha could run no more but despite the terror she was utterly calm – determined that every move she made would protect the life of her unborn baby.

In a book of memories for her first child, she has written about their shared experience and her hope for a kinder world:

 

Hi sweetheart. I don’t know if we already acknowledged this with you in person, but when you were 16 weeks old, mum and dad were at an explosion at Brussels Airport.

And no matter where humanity is today, I just want to tell you that life is a wonderful thing, and the world is really full of remarkable people.

You didn’t just give mum and dad faith and reason to live, you gave us the awareness and presence of mind like never before.

I felt more alive than I ever have, and I knew I had to protect you, so I was calm, composed and fully aware that we will survive.

When we reached Sint-Augustinas [hospital] emergency, and we saw you oblivious and sucking at your thumb at the ultrasound, and doing your general acrobatics, all the mistrust, hate and angst for the terrorist attack vaporised.

I do hope with all my heart that you are born into a better world, and if not, then you do absolute best to make it that.

You are absolutely precious to us, and have already been a hero today. I guess much of the world,and has sent so much love your way.

May you always be brave and healthy. We love you beyond words. Mum and Dad

– SNEHA MEHTA

From: http://www.itv.com/news/2016-03-23/the-world-is-full-of-remarkable-people-pregnant-brussels-bomb-survivor-pens-inspirational-message-to-her-unborn-baby/

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Liverpool’s St George’s Hall lit up in the colours of the National flag of Belgium after the Brussels terror attacks: Holy Week 2016

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Christian Heritage Centre : Easter News See…

https://davidalton.net/2014/03/01/georgetown-presentation-by-lord-nicholas-windsor-royal-patron-of-the-christian-heritage-centre-and-the-case-for-religious-freedom-and-national-register-article-to-celebrate-thanksgivinganl/

 

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