Two more Major Legal Filings in Our Global Battle to Defend Christians from Genocide

  • Written by:

By Joseph Williams yesterday
In the past week, the ACLJ has continued to fight for persecuted Christians around the world through our multi-faceted legal strategy. Through our European affiliate – the European Centre for Law & Justice (ECLJ) – we filed on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the United Nations (U.N.).

Last week, we filed written observations in a case before the European Court of Human Rights regarding Iraqi Christian refugees and the continuing horrible atrocities in Iraq against Christians and other religious minorities. These Christians face the unthinkable possibility of being essentially forced back into genocidal jihadist-controlled territory to face near certain death. Our brief provides clear and unmistakable evidence of what Christians face in Iraq.

Besides facing executions, slavery, and death from ISIS (the Islamic State), Iraqi Christians face other forms of persecution, including economic hardship, violation of fundamental rights and liberties, and more.

For example, our brief discuses the hardship of families in Baghdad:

Christian families in Baghdad are regularly victims of pressure from Muslims and particularly by the Shiite militia. Christians mainly live in the Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad, near the Saïdat Al Najat Cathedral (close to the French Embassy). Thus, due to the pressure applied by the militias, Christians are forced to move out and sell their houses, for just a few dollars in the most favorable cases.

In March 2015, the Prime Minister of Iraq established a committee to tackle violence and abuse against Christians, but our brief points out the corruption within the Iraqi government and how many Christian homes have been robbed with the support of the corrupt administration.

The brief also discusses other persecution:

Christians also are victims of physical violence, robbery, expropriation, forced conversion, murder, kidnapping for ransom, etc. An abducted priest was found a few days later with broken ankles and wrist. In some cases, the prisoner is killed even if the ransom is paid. We have heard the testimony of an Iraqi farmer forced to pay [60,000] USD for his freedom and we know that other Christians have been set free after payment of ransom. Christians are also victims of attacks in churches, the most symbolic was the attack in the Cathedral Saïdat Al Najat during the All Saint’s Day Mass in 2010, 48 people were killed and 60 wounded. Other attacks can be mentioned, such as the Christmas attacks in 2013, 37 people were killed and around fifty wounded.

Detailing the horrific international crimes of ISIS, our brief details how the fall of Mosul and the plain of Nineveh forced 485,000 civilians to flee, including 125,000 Christians. Since 2003, nearly 100,000 Christians leave the country each and every year.

Finally, our filling includes testimonies of a refugee couple with a 15-day old baby when they had to flee Qaraqosh; a mother and her children who fled after her husband died of a heart attack following repeated threats and vandalism from Islamists; a family who fled Baghdad when a Muslim man came to their home demanding the house or their daughter as a servant; and more.

This is a major case that will have significant legal ramifications internationally for Christians facing genocide.

Earlier this week, we also filed a written statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council, urging the U.N. “to join other international bodies such as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe’s Assembly and publically proclaim that Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are victims of genocide and deserving of international assistance and protection.”

Our filing clearly laid out the international legal definition of genocide; the rise of ISIS; its religion-targeted abuses such as “‘killings, rape, kidnapping, enslavement, theft . . . destruction of religious sites . . . sexual slavery, forced conversion, ransom demands, property seizures, and forced business closures’”; and, finally, how these actions and more constitute genocide under international law:

ISIS’ commission of killings, rape, enslavement, destruction of places of worship, and forcible religious conversion of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria because of their religion constitutes the crime of genocide under the Genocide Convention.

First, it is indisputable that Christians constitute a religious group. It is important to mention that both Christians and Yazidis constitute religious groups, and both have been subjected to similar treatment by ISIS.

Second, these acts are committed with intent to destroy Christians. ISIS “has been vocal about its ‘genocidal intent’ toward Christians and other minorities.” The natural and intended consequence of killing, raping, enslaving, forcibly converting persons to Islam, and destroying Christian places of worship is the destruction, in whole or in substantial part, of religious minorities.

Today, ISIS is specifically targeting Christians because of their membership in a particular religious group. According to the Genocide Convention, killing members of a religious group alone is sufficient to constitute genocide. ISIS systematically continues to commit several of the enumerated categories of the Genocide Convention, each of which individually establishes genocide.

Furthermore, we cut through the absurd and devastatingly false argument that ISIS isn’t committing genocide against Christians because ISIS sometimes gives Christians the false choice to convert by force, pay a tax (jizya), flee, or die. As we clearly explain:

ISIS intends to kill all Christians if they do not convert, pay jizya, or flee. Paying jizya or converting to Islam to avoid death are not meaningful alternatives. In fact, forcible conversion coupled with destruction of Christian places of worship are acts that by their very nature are intended to destroy Christians as a religious group. If Christians succumb to forced conversion, there will be no such group called Christians in Iraq and Syria. If they do not convert and refuse to pay jizya, they will be killed. Either way, Christians as a religious group will cease to exist in the region—a clear goal of ISIS. Moreover, just because ISIS may allow Christians to pay jizya to spare their lives does not negate ISIS’ intent to destroy Christians as a religious group. As such, one cannot legitimately claim that, because some Christians can save their lives by paying jizya, ISIS is not engaged in the genocide of Christians. The fact that some Christians have not been killed does not outweigh the many instances where hundreds have been killed.

These latest filings are just the latest actions in our multi-pronged legal strategy to protect the persecuted Church. We continue our efforts to urge Secretary Kerry, President Obama, and Members of Congress to lead the fight against this historic evil and recognize the genocide against Christians in the Middle East.

Sign our petition and join our fight today.