British Government Officially Recognizes Daesh Genocide Against The Yazidis


(ANALYSIS) On Aug. 1, the U.K. government formally recognized the Islamic State group atrocities against the Yazidis as genocide. The announcement comes nine years after the atrocities and follows a determination of the atrocities as genocide by a German court.

Making the announcement, the minister of state for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad, said, “The Yazidi population suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group) nine years ago and the repercussions are still felt to this day. Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated. Today we have made the historic acknowledgement that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people. This determination only strengthens our commitment to ensuring that they receive the compensation owed to them and are able to access meaningful justice. The U.K. will continue to play a leading role in eradicating Daesh, including through rebuilding communities affected by its terrorism and leading global efforts against its poisonous propaganda.”

On Aug. 3, 2014, the Islamic State group, a nonstate actor with unprecedented support from foreign fighters, attacked Sinjar and unleashed prohibited acts against the Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority group in Iraq. IS fighters killed hundreds if not thousands of people. As part of the same campaign, the fighters abducted boys to turn them into child soldiers and women and girls for sex slavery.

More than 2,700 women and children are still missing, and their fate is unknown. The atrocities have been recognized as meeting the legal definition of genocide by the governments of the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and bodies of the United Nations.

Making the announcement, the U.K. government credited the recognition to the judgment of the German Federal Court of Justice earlier this year, which found a former IS fighter guilty of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq. Indeed, it is the U.K.’s position that determinations of genocide should be made by competent courts, rather than by governments or nonjudicial bodies.

However, the announcement does not comment on why the U.K. government has not recognized the determinations of the genocide by other competent German courts and first after the determination by the German Federal Court of Justice. Indeed, as of August 2023, three German courts have made such determinations of the atrocities as genocide.

Despite the delay, the announcement is significant as it recognizes the nature of the pain and suffering inflicted upon this community. Murad Ismael, president and co-founder of Sinjar Academy and co-founder and former executive director of Yazda, welcomed the determination stating, “As Yazidis commemorate the Yazidi genocide and as the plight of Yazidis continues, the U.K. recognition comes at an important time. We hope it will generate momentum on the international level to re-engage on Yazidi issues. We appreciate the tireless work of Yazidi friends in the United Kingdom who ensured this genocide will not be overlooked and forgotten, including Lord Alton of Liverpool, Brendan O’Hara MP, Baroness Kennedy KC, the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Yazidis, Coalition for Genocide Response, Yazda, Free Yezidi Foundation, Nadia’s Initiative, Yezidi Emergency Support, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute BAHRI and others.”

In the U.K., the determination is also important as over 900 British citizens joined the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and participated in the atrocities. As such, it is a crucial element of establishing the truth regarding the events and facing often uncomfortable questions. Now that the atrocities are recognized for what they are, it is critical to explore what else needs to be done to ensure justice and accountability, including investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators for their involvement in the genocide and not for terror-related offenses only.

Furthermore, as recommended by Pieter Omtzigt, Council of Europe special rapporteur on bringing IS to justice, is it pivotal to revive the attempts to establish an international tribunal for the crimes of IS fighters to ensure that the trials have the necessary transparency and visibility to make a difference.

Furthermore, more must be done to support the community. To this day, over 2,700 Yazidi women and children are missing, and there have been no international actions to find and rescue them. To this day, thousands of Yazidi people live in camps and cannot return home and resettlement options are severely limited. Until this day, the communities are not provided with the assistance they need, and even the limited support gets smaller by the day.

Brendan O’Hara MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Yazidis, said, “Today’s news is hugely welcome and is a testament to the hard work and dogged determination of parliamentarians from all sides of both Houses, who have campaigned for the past nine years to have the Yazidi genocide recognized by the UK government. Today’s announcement is not the end of our work however, and we will now redouble our efforts to put pressure on the UK government, the Iraqi government and others to step up their efforts to find and rescue the 2,700 kidnapped Yazidi women still missing since 2014. We will also continue to campaign for the IS perpetrators who are now back in the U.K. to be questioned and if possible, prosecuted for their role in the genocide and the sexual enslavement of women and girls.”

The determination of atrocities as genocide is not an end in itself. Action must follow: actions in accordance with the obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and actions that help the community not only to survive the attempt to annihilate them but to flourish.

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