In The Media

Dion accepts UN report that calls Daesh attacks on Yazidis genocide

Olivia Ward (feat. Kyle Matthews)

The Star

June 16, 2016 The conclusion is stark and damning: “ISIS has committed, and continues to commit, the crime of genocide, as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes, against the Yazidis.”

On Thursday, a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that Daesh — also known as ISIS and ISIL — is seeking “to destroy the Yazidis in multiple ways, as envisaged by the 1948 Genocide Convention.”

It left no doubt that the atrocities perpetrated against thousands of Yazidi women, children and men since the group invaded Iraq’s Sinjar region in August 2014, belonged in the worst category of crimes in human history.

The report came two days after a Tory-sponsored parliamentary motion to declare the assault on the Yazidis and other minorities genocide was defeated by Liberal MPs.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, who opposed it, said Thursday that the government is now convinced that Daesh is conducting genocide against the Yazidis. And he insisted that Canada is “taking the lead” in rescuing the beleaguered minority, who have been persecuted for centuries in the Middle East as devil worshippers.

Dion has also sent a new letter to the UN Security Council asking it to carry out more investigations, and urging the council to bring the perpetrators to justice. Earlier, he asked the council to try and determine whether the crimes could be called genocide.

But Dion resisted Conservative demands for Canada to resume its combat mission against Daesh, saying that the government had tripled its effort to train fighters against the terrorist group, and to help rescue the Yazidis.

Immigration minister John McCallum’s office said in an email that the government recognizes the “compelling nature” of the claims of the hundreds of traumatized women and girls who escaped from enslavement by Daesh, and want to come to Canada.

It said his representatives will be “meeting with stakeholders in the coming days,” and that the government’s refugee and sponsorship programs provide protection for women at risk “including Yazidis who are outside their (country) of nationality.”

But it added that interviewing and selecting Yazidi women in Iraq would be challenging because the “high-risk security situation” means immigration officials have no presence on the ground.

The UN report details the horrific atrocities perpetrated against the Yazidis over the past two years.

“ISIS has sought to erase the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm; the infliction of conditions of life that bring about a slow death,” in addition to numerous other crimes.

The report is not unique in documenting Daesh atrocities against the Yazidis, whose 400,000-strong community is based in northwestern Iraq. It is the culmination of 11 earlier reports of severe human rights violations, including allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who headed the UN panel, told reporters that Daesh, even by its own admission, had crossed the line to genocide in its onslaught against the Yazidis. They have raped and enslaved girls as young as 9, beaten small children in front of their mothers and forced boys to convert to their extreme version of Islam and train to kill their relatives.

The group has boasted of its atrocities, and posted them, and their hate-filled views on the Yazidis, on its website Dabiq, as well as on YouTube.

However, the UN report, based on interviews with survivors, religious leaders, smugglers, activists, lawyers, medical personnel and others — as well as “extensive documentary material” — also lists suspected perpetrators of genocide.

It said that the group had created a blueprint for the systematic destruction of the Yazidis, with instructions for carrying out torture, rape, humiliation and execution of those who were captured, including about 7,000 women and girls. Other Yazidis were killed during the Sinjar assault, and buried in mass graves. Some 2,300 girls and women are still in captivity.

The evidence is “a road map for prosecution,” said Carla Del Ponte, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, according to the New York Times.

However the UN Security Council, the only body able to request the opening of a case against Daesh, has so far refused to refer it to the International Criminal Court.

The council’s veto-bearing permanent members are reluctant to leave themselves or their allies open to prosecution for other rights violations committed in the bloody wars in Iraq and Syria. The UN investigators hope that raising the stakes on the Daesh atrocities by naming them as genocide will break the stalemate.

“The crime of genocide must trigger much more assertive action at the political level, including the Security Council,” said Pinheiro.

“In theory, labelling crimes in real time as genocide should result in a re-examination of Canada’s current mission against (Daesh) and bring about debate if more can be done to protect the minority under existential threat,” said Kyle Matthews of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, in an email.

“The responsibility to protect was supposed to galvanize countries to move beyond rhetoric and act on their obligations as signatories of the Genocide Convention.”

The U.S. launched a bombing campaign that allowed thousands of Yazidis to escape from Sinjar in August 2014. But the displaced Yazidis are living in miserable conditions in Kurdistan, which is in an economic crisis and has few resources to help them.

Some have returned to ruined homes in Sinjar, and are still at risk from Daesh. Others have escaped to Turkey, and dozens have lost their lives trying to reach safety in Europe.

“The international community must free the remaining 3,200 people, free the remaining 40 per cent of the Yazidi homeland in Sinjar and the Nineveh plain, and ensure protection for the Yazidis in their homeland, as well as ensuring that victims of genocide can immigrate to safe countries if desired,” said Murad Ismael, executive director of the U.S.-based advocacy group Yazda.

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