The European Parliament urges for action against mass murder of religious minorities by the Islamic State
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The European Parliament urges for action against mass murder of religious minorities by the Islamic State

In a resolution yesterday (4.2), the European Parliament condemned the systematic mass murder of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State, also called ISIS or Daesh. The resolution, which was passed by a show of hands, was initiated by Swedish Christian Democrat MEP Lars Adaktusson on behalf of the European People’s Party (EPP).

The resolution followed a debate in January in the Parliament with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. She pointed out that the region, which was once known for its diversity, has become a sectarian battle field where the religious minorities are threatened as never before. The majority of victims are Muslims belonging to the wrong side of the sectarian divide (Sunni or Shia).

The European Union is a leading donor of financial assistance and humanitarian aid to Syria and Iraq. At the debate, Mogherini called for guarantees that justice will be done and those responsible for the on-going atrocities will be held accountable.

The new resolution refers to the plight of religious and ethnic minorities, such as Christian (Chaldean/Syriac/Assyrian, Melkite and Armenian), Yazidi, Turkmens, Shabak, Kaka’i, Sabae-Mandean, Kurdish and Shi’a communities, as well as many Arabs and Sunni Muslims, who have been targeted by the Islamic State.

The European Parliament states that the atrocities committed by the Islamic State amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. In particular it stresses that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and Yazidi, and that this therefore entails action under United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

On the eve of the Second World War there were no international conventions against genocide and governments were “free” to commit mass atrocities against their own populations. Only retroactively were crimes against humanity – defined as war crimes committed on a vast scale against civilians – included in the statutes of the Nuremberg trials.

In 1948 the United Nations adopted the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. Genocide is defined as killing and other acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

The European Parliament urged the international community, including the EU Member States, to work actively on fighting radicalisation and to improve their legal systems in order to avoid their nationals and citizens being able to travel to join the so-called ‘ISIS/Daesh.’

The resolution calls on the Member States to ensure that those who participate in violations of human rights should be prosecuted as soon as possible, including for online incitement and support to commit crimes. The EU should also establish a permanent Special Representative for Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Responsibility to protect

MEP Lars Adaktusson drew the attention to the persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria as a factor in the growing phenomenon of mass migration and internal displacement.  As a result, their numbers have dropped dramatically: in Iraq, from 1,400,000 in 2003 to about 300,000; and in Syria, from 1.25 million in 2011 to as few as 500,000 today.

“The resolution is a strong call for prosecuting the perpetrators for their crimes and obliges the international community, including the European Union, to interfere according to the R2P-principle,” Adaktusson says to The Brussels Times.

In 2005 the United Nation adopted a resolution on the “responsibility to protect” civilians. According to the resolution every country has a responsibility to protect its own population.

If the government does not fulfil its responsibility, it is up to the international community to intervene with humanitarian and diplomatic means to stop mass killings of civilians. As a last resort the Security Council may decide on military means. This resolution has already been applied in different conflicts but not in Iraq and Syria.

M.Apelblat
The Brussels Times
m.apelblat@brusselstimes.com

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