Move follows European Parliament, House of Commons, US House of Representatives
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect fleeing violence from forces loyal to Islamic State. Photograph: Reuters/Rodi Said
A group of TDs and Senators have written to Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan asking that the Government recognise as genocide the slaughter perpetrated by Islamic State (Isis) against minority communities, including Iraqi and Syrian Christians and Yazidis.
Among the 22 signatories are Labour leader Brendan Howlin (and all Labour TDs), Fianna Fáil Foreign Affairs spokesman Darragh O’Brien, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Fine Gael Seanad spokesman on Foreign Affairs Joe O’Reilly.
They have called on the Government, using words from a recent House of Commons motion passed unanimously, “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 letter was drafted and circulated by the Iona Institute, Aid to the Church in Need, and Church in Chains groups.
It states there was now clear evidence “that this genocide includes assassinations of church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam; destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artefacts; and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.”
‘Attack on the group’s identity’
Genocide, they pointed out, “does not necessarily mean the physical extermination of a given group. ‘Genocide’ is defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.”
It was “an attack on the group’s identity, the destruction of its places and symbols of belief, killing and harming members of the targeted group, driving them from their lands. The group may be ‘national, ethnic, racial or religious’ and the abovementioned Convention identifies ‘acts committed with intent to destroy [that group] in whole or in part’.”
The signatories were in no doubt that “targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by Isis falls within that definition”.
Send a message
They noted how “the US House of Representatives has voted unanimously to denounce as ‘genocide’ what Isis is doing to minority groups in its territories. The European Parliament voted by a very large majority in favour of a similar resolution” and how, last month, “ the British House of Commons voted by 278 votes to nil to call it ‘genocide’.”
Using the word “genocide” to describe what Isis was doing would “send a very clear message to those organising and undertaking this slaughter that at some point in the future they will be held accountable by the international community for their actions; they will be caught, tried and punished.”
It would also “encourage the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to face up to their duty to take the necessary action to ‘prevent and punish’ the perpetrators of these evil acts”.