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TDs urge government to declare ISIS actions as genocide

By Ann Marie Foley - 04 May, 2017

“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.”

TDs have asked the government to recognise as genocide the actions of ISIS (Islamic State) against minority communities.

The Iona Institute stated: “We are pleased to be able to announce that 22 TDs and Senators have signed a letter addressed to Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan, urging the government to recognise ISIS attacks on Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as a form of genocide.”

The letter was drafted and circulated by the Iona Institute, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Church in Chains.

Last year (see Catholicireland.net 8 April 2016), ACN had already urged the Irish government to formally recognise genocide  ahead of its Dublin talk ‘Genocide: How Christians are being killed and driven out of the Middle East for their faith’.

This latest letter was welcomed by Church In Chains, who stated: “Good to see TDs and Senators standing up for persecuted Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.”

The signatories include Fianna Fáil spokesman for Foreign Affairs Darragh O’Brien, Fine Gael Seanad spokesman for Foreign Affairs Senator Joe O’Reilly, Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

The letter asks the Irish Government and the Minister “to make an immediate referral to the UN Security Council” which can give jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court so that “perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide states that 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”.

This has happened to Christians, Yazidis and other minority religions in ISIS-occupied territory. As ISIS has been pushed back, the extent of the targeted destruction of these minorities has become clearer.

The TDs and Senators point out that the US House of Representatives has unanimously asked its government to denounce what ISIS is doing as genocide, and the European Parliament passed a similar resolution.

There was a unanimous vote in the House of Commons to recognise ISIS attacks as genocide. Before the vote, members of Parliament heard how ISIS declared its intent to both eradicate Yazidis from the region and to kill “the worshippers of the cross”.

Yvette, a woman who had flown in from Syria to address parliamentarians, spoke of Christians being killed and tortured, and of children being beheaded in front of their parents. She showed film footage of herself talking with mothers who had seen their own children crucified.

Minister Flanagan has previously condemned crimes by ISIS, including those against religious minorities, but he has stopped short of calling it genocide on the grounds that this is a matter for a legally competent court. However, the government can determine for itself that ISIS attacks on religious minorities is genocide and refer the matter to the UN Security Council, as suggested in the letter signed by the TDs and Senators.

The letter also stated: “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 letter goes on to say that declaring a genocide 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”.

It would also encourage the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to take the necessary action to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators of such acts.

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