The House of Commons will today debate whether ISIS is carrying out genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Government has so far resisted calls to use the word “genocide”, and a similar House of Lords motion was defeated last month.
The motion, which MPs will debate from about 1.45pm, is being proposed by Fiona Bruce MP. It states: “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.”
The Government has said that a declaration of genocide is a legal matter, hence the demands for the International Criminal Court to be involved via the UN.
At a press conference last week, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said he believed “genocide” was a useful word in common parlance, but should only be used in a legal sense once a due legal process has been followed.
Last month, the US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “In my judgment, Daesh [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.” The US House of Representatives had previously made a declaration of genocide, as has the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
ISIS is estimated to have killed 5,000 Yazidis. A recent report from the Knights of Columbus, Genocide Against Christians in the Middle East, lists 1,131 Iraqi Christians killed between 2003 and 2014.
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”. Signatories to the Convention – 147 countries including the UK and US – are obliged to recognise genocide as “a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish”.
Writing for the Catholic Herald, barrister Robert Clarke of the legal advocacy group ADF International, says that ISIS’s atrocities meet that definition.
Clarke writes: “Genocide may be accomplished through executions, inflicting serious physical or psychological harm, or destroying the family unit and the broader community by preventing births or removing children. Genocide may also be achieved through deliberately imposing conditions of life calculated to cause physical destruction, such as denying food, water and medical care. Put simply, genocide is the intentional destruction of a culture and the people belonging to that culture.”
Clarke concludes that if the Convention were a checklist, “ISIS would tick every box.”
The government is expected to whip against the motion, as it did with last month’s House of Lords vote.
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