Islamic State atrocities are 'genocide' says European Parliament

Christians have abandoned their homes in Iraq to escape violence from Islamic State militants.Reuters

The European Parliament has recognised as genocide the mass slaughter and persecution of Christians and others in the Middle East.

It is the first time an ongoing conflict has been recognised as genocide. There has been considerable debate around the world as to whether the depradations of Islamic State should be classed as genocide, with one fear being that it would oblige outside bodies and agencies to take stronger action against the terror group.

Under the resolution, all who intentionally commit atrocities for ethnic or religious reasons should be brought to justice for violations against international law, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The next step will be for those calling for action to demand the UN Security Council intervene.

Lars Adaktusson, MEP from Sweden, who tabled the resolution, told Newsweek: "It's really important that the Parliament passed it, on a political level and a moral level."

He said the significance was in the collective "obligation to intervene" that now follows recognition.

"It gives the victims of the atrocities a chance to get their human dignity restored. It's also a historical confirmation that the European Parliament recognised what is going on and that they are suffering from the most despicable crime in the world, namely genocide."

ISIS has kidnapped and murdered thousands of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis. The group has also enslaved and raped Christian and Yazidi women and girls.

Last month, Robert Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South tabled a motion in the House of Commons stating that MPs are "appalled by the beheadings, crucifixions, shootings, burnings, other murders, torture, rape and extensive violence being perpetrated by Daesh or IS against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq on the basis of religion and ethnicity."

His motion says the "disgusting behaviour" clearly falls within the definition of genocide as determined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

He also notes a recent report from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq that IS is holding about 3,500 slaves, mostly women and children in Iraq and primarily from the Yazidi community.  

He concludes that IS acts "amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide" and calls on the Government to use all its influence at the UN to create a stated consensus that genocide is indeed being perpetrated so that intervention "can urgently, legitimately and effectively be invoked and implemented".

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe has also recognised the killings as genocide. And just before Christmas, 75 parliamentarians from across Parliament and all parties and including the former head of the Armed Forces, the former head of MI5, and former cabinet ministers wrote to the Prime Minister David Cameron urging him also to declare the atrocities to be genocide.

Lord Alton of Liverpool is among those who have been leading the argument. He wrote recently in The Catholic Herald that it was comparable to past genocides well-documented through history.

"So is genocide what is happening today in Syria and Iraq – specifically to Christians and Yazidis? Pope Francis has said that it is – and so has Hillary Clinton, as well as Marco Rubio and most of the other Republican presidential hopefuls."

Referring to the destruction by Islamic State of Mosul's ancient, stone-walled monastery of St Elijah, dating from the 6th century, where monks had etched the words Chi Rho, the first Greek letters of the word Kristos, "Christ", he continued: "This attempt to eradicate memory has been accompanied by the obliteration of Christ's followers. Last year 200 Assyrian Christians in the Khabur River Valley in Syria were kidnapped. Jihadist websites showed graphic executions of some of the group, warning that others would be executed if the ransoms remained unpaid."

Along with the Yazidi community, Christians have been told to convert or die, he added. "Children have been seized, propagandised and indoctrinated with jihadist ideology."

Lord Alton argued: "We endlessly talk of something vaguely called 'British values'. One value, one belief, that particularly marks us out from the ideology of ISIS is our belief in the rule of law. As a signatory to the genocide convention, it is a dereliction of our duty to uphold international law if we do not take the action that should follow our signature, our voice and our military action."