A group of 21 TDs and Senators have written to Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, asking that he and the Government recognise as genocide what is being perpetrated by ISIS against minority communities including Iraqi and Syrian Christians and Yazidis.
The group includes Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, Green party leader, Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail Foreign Affairs spokesman, Darragh O’Brien, and Fine Gael Seanad spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Joe O’Reilly. (See below for the full list.)
The letter (printed in full below) was drafted by The Iona Institute, Aid to the Church in Need and Church in Chains.
The letter asks the Government and the Minister “to make an immediate referral to the UN Security Council with a view to conferring jurisdiction upon the International Criminal Court so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.”
Genocide, as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, “is an attack on a group’s identity, the destruction of its places and symbols of belief, killing and harming members of the targeted group and driving them from their lands”.
All this and more has happened to Christians, Yazidis and other minority religion in ISIS-occupied territory. As ISIS has been pushed back from some of its territory, the extent of the targeted destruction of these minorities becomes clearer.
The TDs and Senators point out that the UK House of Commons and the US House of Representatives have both unanimously asked their Governments to denounce what ISIS is doing as genocide. The European Parliament passed a similar resolution by an almost unanimous vote.
Minister Flanagan has previously condemned crimes by ISIS, including against religious minorities. However, he has stopped short of calling it genocide on the grounds that this is a matter for a legally competent court.
However, there is nothing to stop the Government determining for itself that ISIS attacks on religious minorities is genocide and referring the matter to the UN Security Council as suggested in the letter signed by the TDs and Senators.
Last year, then US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was emphatic in describing as genocide what ISIS is doing.
The full list of TDs and Senators who signed the list is as follows: Senator Victor Boyhan, Independent; Joan Burton TD, Labour; Jim Daly TD, Fine Gael Chairperson of Children’s Committee; Michael Fitzmaurice TD, Independent; Noel Grealish TD, Rural Independent Group; Brendan Howlin TD, Labour party leader; Senator Kevin Humphreys, Labour; Alan Kelly TD, Labour; Senator Tim Lombard, Fine Gael; Catherine Martin TD, Green Party; Mattie McGrath TD, Rural Independent Group; Darragh O’Brien TD, Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs; Kevin O’Keeffe TD, Fianna Fail; Senator Joe O’Reilly, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs; Senator Grace O’Sullivan, Green Party; Jan O’Sullivan TD, Labour; Willie Penrose TD, Labour; John Paul Phelan TD, Fine Gael Chairperson of Budgetary Oversight Committee; Brendan Ryan TD, Labour; Eamon Ryan TD, Green Party leader; Senator Sean Sherlock, Labour.
Text of Letter
Letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
Genocide perpetrated by Daesh/ISIS against religious minorities including Christians and Yazidis
We the undersigned TDs and Senators call on the Irish Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to recognise as “genocide” what is being perpetrated by ISIS (also called ‘Daesh’) against minority communities including Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis and other vulnerable groups.
We call on the Government and the Minister (in the words of a recent House of Commons motion (unanimously passed) “to make an immediate referral to the U.N. Security Council with a view to conferring jurisdiction upon the International Criminal Court so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.”
There is now clear evidence that this genocide includes assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam; destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.
The liberation from ISIS of areas in and around Mosul confirms what has happened.
ISIS has made its own public statements taking “credit” for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its “Islamic State”.
“Genocide” does not necessarily mean the physical extermination of a given group. “Genocide” is defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
It is an attack on the group’s identity, the destruction of its places and symbols of belief, killing and harming members of the targeted group, driving them from their lands.
The group may be “national, ethnic, racial or religious” and the abovementioned Convention identifies “acts committed with intent to destroy [that group] in whole or in part.”
There is no doubt in our minds that the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by ISIS falls within that definition.
We hope that the Irish Government will pay heed to the fact the US House of Representatives has voted unanimously to denounce as “genocide” what ISIS is doing to minority groups in its territories. The European Parliament voted by a very large majority in favour of a similar resolution.
Within days of the US House of Representatives votes, Secretary of State John Kerry called the ISIS attacks, “genocide”.
On March 17 of last year, John Kerry said clearly and unambiguously: “Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.”
On April 19, the British House of Commons voted by 278 votes to nil to call it ‘genocide’, sweeping aside objections by the British Government (similar to our own) that this declaration should be left up to an international court.
The motion passed by the House of Commons read: “This House believes that Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are suffering genocide at the hands of Daesh and calls on the government to make an immediate referral to the U.N. Security Council with a view to conferring jurisdiction upon the International Criminal Court so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.”
This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the international community that genocide is being perpetrated. First, it would send a very clear message to those organising and undertaking this slaughter that at some point in the future they will be held accountable by the international community for their actions; they will be caught, tried and punished. Second, it would encourage the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to face up to their duty to take the necessary action to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators of these evil acts.
We hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will give this his urgent consideration and answer in the affirmative.
We look forward to hearing from you.