Israel’s occupation ‘is root cause of violence’, says new UN report

LONDON: British human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy has said Turkey should be sued at the International Court of Justice for complicity in acts of genocide against the Yazidi people.

Kennedy also endorsed an investigation against Syria and Iraq for failing to prevent the killings.

The groundbreaking report, compiled by a group of leading human rights lawyers, seeks to highlight the binding responsibility of states to prevent genocide on their territory, even if it is perpetrated by a third party such as organizations extremists.

The lawyers, known as the Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC), claimed that states are held accountable under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide.

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, president of the YJC, called the genocide of the Yazidi people “madness piled on evil”.

“The mechanisms in place could have saved the Yazidis from what is now part of their past and their past partial destruction,” he said.

From 2013, a genocide against the Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq and Syria, was attempted. After a three-year investigation into the conduct of 13 countries, the 278-page report concluded that three of them failed in their duty to take reasonable steps to prevent genocide.

Regarding Turkey, the YJC accused its leaders of being complicit in the massacres, saying the country had failed to police its borders to prevent the free movement of extremist fighters, including a significant number of Turkish nationals. Turkish officials dismissed the criticism as unfounded.

The YJC also claimed that from April 2014, Turkish officials turned a blind eye to the sale, transfer and enslavement of Yazidi women and children, and helped train fighters affiliated with organizations extremists to fight their Kurdish enemies in Syria, thus empowering the perpetrators of the genocide.

“Turkish officials knew and/or deliberately ignored evidence that these individuals would use this training to commit prohibited acts against Yazidis,” the report said.

Although the report acknowledges that Iraq had called on the UN to acknowledge the atrocities committed in 2014, it accuses the Iraqi government of failing to coordinate with Kurdish authorities or take steps to evacuate Yazidis to safety .

Nor did the Syrian government prevent the transfer and detention of enslaved Yazidis on its territory, according to the report.

Turkey’s Ambassador to the UK, Ümit Yalçın, called the criticism unfounded and unfair.

“Turkey, from the early years of the conflict in Syria, has played a key role in protecting Syrian civilians and minorities, including Yazidis, in the region from attacks and violations by terrorist groups,” Yalçın said. .

He also added, “Turkey has not only opened its doors and become a haven for millions of Syrians and Yazidis, but also provided protection to the people of the region through three counter-terrorism operations in Syria. Today, Yazidis live peacefully in areas controlled by the legitimate Syrian opposition in northwestern Syria.

“Furthermore, in the past year many Yazidi families who took refuge in northwestern Syria tried to return to their homes in northeastern Syria, but [were] prevented from doing so by the PKK/YPG [the initials of the Kurdish groups in Turkey and Syria].”

“An ocean of impunity exists in relation to the Yazidi genocide,” Kennedy said, noting that extremist groups as non-state actors cannot be prosecuted under international law.

Kennedy added that in the meantime, states had “failed in their duty to fulfill their responsibilities to prevent genocide for various inhumane reasons.” She wrote that if they are not held accountable, “then the promise of ‘never again’ rings hollow”.

Michael A. Bynum