UK government hints it will recognise ISIS atrocities against Christians as genocide

Christian and Yazidi refugees have fled Syria and Iraq where they have faced intensive persecution because of their faithReuters

Genocide against Christians and Yazidis at the hand of ISIS may be recognised by the UK government after ministers hinted they would take action.

Foreign office minister Baroness Anelay told peers in the House of Lords on Tuesday the government is trying to find "new ways" to work within the United Nations, a previous roadblock in the effort to recognise genocide.

The UK has previously refused to follow the White House and the European Parliament in declaring a genocide, despite a unanimous vote by MPs that it should do so. The Prime Minister has insisted it was a matter for international courts, not politicians.

However several parliamentarians, including Lord Alton who has campaigned for the government to change its position, said this was a "circular argument".

He pointed out that the International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot act unless it is instructed to by the UN's security council, of which the UK government is a permanent member. He was joined by Fiona Bruce and a number of other Christian MPs in the Commons and said the government had a "responsibility" to make a referral at the UN security council.

David Alton was formerly an MP for 18 years before becoming a cross-bench independent peer in the House of LordsFacebook / Lord Alton

As yet no indication has been given that the government intends to take action. In a debate in the House of Commons foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood said the government was concerned that Russia or China, also permanent members of the security council and long term supporters of the Syrian President Assad, would veto a proposal that called for investigation into genocide in Syria.

But Baroness Anelay's responses to questions in the Lords on Tuesday indicated the government may be shifting its position. She hinted the government could be working on a resolution that Russia and China would agree to, despite their ongoing support for Assad.

But Lord Alton told Christian Today there were other ways apart from the ICC that perpetrators of genocide could be brought to justice. He has tabled a private members bill in the House of Lords that could provide a mechanism that would bypass the obstacle of the UN. If passed it would enable to UK's High Court to assess the evidence and make a declaration on whether genocide had been committed. The bill would force the government to act and refer a High Court ruling on genocide directly to the UN security council and the ICC.

"It is now two months since the House of Commons unanimously passed a Motion declaring a genocide to be underway against Christian and Yazidi minorities and calling on the British Government to raise this at the Security Council," Lord Alton told Christian Today.

"Thus far no Resolution has been tabled. There are many ways in which the perpetrators can be brought to justice – not only through the International Criminal Court - and I hope that we will use our permanent seat at the Security Council to ensure that a mechanism is urgently created."

Lord Alton's bill is unlikely to receive a second reading in the House of Lords due to the lack of parliamentary time available. But it could provide the basis for an alternative response, should the UN security council continue to cause a blockade.