British politicians are calling for ISIL’s atrocities against minority groups to be recognized as genocide.
More than 60 members of parliament have signed a letter urging UK prime minister David Cameron to convince the United Nations to use the term ”genocide” for ISIL’s targeted killings. The letter, published today (Dec 21) by the BBC, states:
This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the UN that genocide is being perpetrated.
First, it 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.
Second, it would encourage the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention to face up to their duty to take the necessary action to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators of these evil acts.
In 2014, ISIL quickly captured territory in Iraq and Syria in a bid to establish a so-called Islamic State (the terrorist group have now lost 14% of the territory it held in January). As they seized new land, ISIL members systematically raped, enslaved, and killed minority groups it encountered. ISIL reportedly killed more than 2000 Yazidis in Sinjar, Iraq, in one day.
Rebels fighting ISIL have since found mass graves in northern Iraq; one contained at least 110 bodies thought to be from the Yazidi community. Another mass grave was discovered a few weeks before that, which reportedly contained the bodies of 80 women aged around 40 to 80 years old.
Politicians in the UK aren’t the first to call for the label. Christian leaders in the US expressed similar sentiments (pdf) in a letter to secretary of state John Kerry. The UN defines genocide in Article 2 (pdf) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as a number of different acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” These acts can include killing members of a group or causing serious bodily harm.
Though a UN report has detailed ISIL’s intent “to destroy the Yazidi as a group,” the UN is unlikely to adopt the label any time soon, as the international community has previously struggled to officially decide what is and what isn’t genocide.
In this century, the Holocaust and slaughter in Rwanda have been widely acknowledged as genocides, but other mass killings have not. The July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, for example, where 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed, is recognized as genocide by the International Court of Justice, but not by the UN, due to resistance from security council member Russia.