City President, Professor Sir Anthony Finkelstein, speaks at an event in Parliament in support of the persecuted Yazidi community.
“I stand before you today to remind you of the painful tragedy that befell the Yazidi community… those horrible images and the crimes from which the Yazidi girls, women and children continue to suffer every day and those screams still linger in my head. There needs to be more concerted efforts among the world’s Governments, especially those of the developed world, to provide justice and support to victims.”
Those were the words of the Honourable Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament who travelled to the United Kingdom specifically to participate in a Parliamentary event focusing on the Yazidi Genocide and the Missing 2,700 Women and Children. Ms Dakhil noted that there had been very little progress in securing justice and accountability for the Yazidi genocide in Iraq and, indeed, Iraq's Parliament had not yet passed a law criminalizing the crime of genocide that would enable the prosecution of ISIL/Daesh fighters in Iraq. She urged the Government and people of the United Kingdom to make further efforts to support Yazidi victims internationally as well as nationally by working with the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to facilitate prosecutions of ISIL/Daesh fighters, as well as supporting efforts to search for the missing abducted women and children.
This event in Parliament was supported by the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the International Bar Association Human Rights Initiative and the Coalition for Genocide Response. The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at City was also one of the sponsors of this event and indeed, in his intervention, the President of City, Sir Anthony Finkelstein, highlighted City’s continued support for this important agenda.
Sir Anthony noted that his grandparents had had direct experience of the suffering and genocide committed in the course of the Second World War. He highlighted the importance of truth-telling as a bastion against impunity for atrocity crimes. In this respect, he stated that his grandfather, Dr Alfred Wiener, had been instrumental in establishing the Wiener Holocaust Library in Russell Square and this space could continue to play a significant role for truth-telling with respect to present day atrocities, such as those experienced by the Yazidis.
The event was ably chaired by Brendan O’Hara MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Yazidis. Other speakers included Alex Crawford, Special Correspondent for Sky News, who spoke about the growing insecurity inside refugee camps, where weapons circulated freely and children were being recruited and radicalised into terrorism. And Jomaa Jameel Murad, a human rights activist, who spoke about the complexities and red tape involved in trying to free missing Yazidi women and children.
Other speakers at the event included Lord Alton of Liverpool, who highlighted various initiatives that had been taken by the UK Parliament to promote greater justice and accountability for the Yazidis. He also noted that there was still much work to be done and emphasized the need for the UK Government to finally recognise the genocide against the Yazidis.
Baroness Helena Kennedy referred to the need for greater use of universal jurisdiction by the UK to prosecute returning ISIL/Daesh fighters for their possible roles in the Yazidi genocide. Baroness Kennedy concluded by praising the important work of the Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC) that collected and documented evidence of state responsibility for the genocide against the Yazidis. The research work of the YJC was led by Dr Aldo Zammit Borda, a Reader in The City Law School.
Speaking after the event, Dr Zammit Borda stated that, while the genocide against the Yazidis has been very well documented and, indeed, juridically established by three German courts, more work needed to be done to keep this matter on the international agenda, to ensure that it does not slip out of sight, and to continue working to promote justice and accountability for the Yazidis.