THE BLOG

We Must Recognise Genocide to Act - Why Defining Daesh Atrocities Is Important

27/04/2016 17:31

Genocide is the gravest crime against humanity. It is a calculated and systematic attempt to exterminate an entire group of people. We've seen these atrocities committed throughout history, whether it be Nazi Germany or Rwanda in 1994. Shockingly, it is also happening today.

Daesh's appalling actions in the Middle East are well documented, but most people have not heard the full horrors. They have committed crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes against Christian, Yazidi, Turimen, Shabak, Sabaean-Mandaean, and Kaka'I people across Northern Iraq.

The manner in which these awful crimes are taking place is truly shocking.

A region once diverse in culture and people has seen mass killings, rapes, mutilation, crucifixions, forced conversions and the destruction of shrines, temples and churches.

I heard of these crimes first hand from two women who came to give testimony in Parliament. Nadia Murad was 19 years old when she managed to escape from Daesh. She told us how she was captured, beaten, tortured and raped. She escaped, but there are still an estimated 3,400 Yazidi women being held against their will by Daesh.

Another young woman I heard speak, Ekhlas, was taken when she was 15 years old. Her father and brother were killed in front of her eyes. She witnessed girls as young as nine being raped by multiple Daesh fighters, some falling pregnant.

We must learn from the past, we cannot stand by whilst this happens.

The barbaric perpetrators of these most heinous crimes must be brought to justice. Yazidi campaign groups have called for the important preservation of evidence, particularly protecting mass graves. Using this evidence, International courts can bring the perpetrators to justice. If this evidence is damaged or removed it will make the process difficult, potentially preventing any successful prosecutions.

Last Wednesday, a motion was put to the House of Commons by Fiona Bruce MP:

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.

This followed on from similar debates by the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives. The motion was passed; the first time in Parliament's history that MPs have voted to recognise an ongoing genocide.

This vote is a huge step forward in ensuring that these horrendous crimes don't go unpunished, but it must now be followed up with swift action from international bodies.

I urge the Government to act on this historic motion which was passed with strong cross party support.

The next step would be for the Security Council of the United Nations to refer the actions of Daesh to the International Criminal Court. Once this has taken place, the ICC can begin the process of collecting evidence before pursuing a criminal case against those responsible for this genocide. I see no reason why the Security Council should wait any longer in referring this case to the ICC.

Too often in history we have been silent in the face of atrocities. It is time we heed the warnings of past generations - 'never again' - and we ensure that action is taken against Daesh for their ongoing genocide.

Stephen Twigg is the Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby

Comments

CONVERSATIONS