Parliament to debate ISIS 'genocide'

MPs will have the chance to vote on whether ISIS has committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East when the House of Commons considers the question in a debate next Wednesday.

Next week's motion, tabled by the Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, calls on the government to bring pressure on the United Nations Security Council. The hope for supporters is this will allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to intervene.

Refugees flee from ISIS in Raqqa, Syria. The question of whether to label the group's atrocities as genocide has haunted governments with many proving reluctant.Reuters

The government has previously been reluctant to describe the conflict as a genocide, which would place moral obligations on the state. However pressure has mounted on the Prime Minister after the White House joined the European Parliament in labelling ISIS' atrocities as genocide in March.

In a debate last month the foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood hinted the government could shift its position. He told MPs in Parliament's secondary chamber he believed "acts of genocide have taken place" and said Christians, Yazidis and others had suffered "systematic and horrific attacks" because of their religious beliefs or ethnicity.

However Ellwood continued: "Genocide is a matter of legal rather than political interpretation... Such matters are determined first in the international courts and in the United Nations Security Council."

The debate next Wednesday will be a backbench business debate which means any outcome will not force the government to act.

However Christian Today has been told that Fiona Bruce intends to force a vote at the end of the debate. If the motion is passed in a vote, it would significantly increase the pressure on Downing Street to take action.

The move is the latest in a series of attempts by British politicians to highlight the atrocities religious minorities face at the hands of ISIS. The Catholic peer Lord Alton has pushed the issue in the House of Lords and co-signed a letter to the Prime Minister in December alongside 74 other peers and MPs.

A number of QCs joined Alton in a second letter in February that criticised Cameron's view that genocide was a matter for the international legal system.

They wrote: "The only way in which the International Criminal Court can investigate and prosecute acts of genocide is with a referral from Syria or Iraq, which at this moment appears unlikely, or with a referral from the UN Security Council, of which the United Kingdom is a prominent and permanent member."

A debate followed in the House of Lords with an amendment tabled that would have forced a High Court judge to decide if ISIS had committed genocide. However the amendment was defeated by 148 to 111 after the government opposed the change.

Christian Today has been told the government is likely to oppose Wednesday's motion as well if it does not change its position that genocide remains an issue for the legal system, not for politicians.

Other parties will consider their positions although it is likely Labour and the SNP will support the motion.