David Cameron was accused of “morally indefensible” equivocation over the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East as he dismissed calls to classify the jihadist attacks as genocide as “politicisation”.
He is facing a potential rift with Britain’s most important ally over the issue after the US Secretary of State John Kerry publicly declared the attacks on Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims in the region to be “genocidal” and “crimes against humanity”.
But Mr Cameron claimed there was “no need” to reconsider applying the term to the attacks in Iraq, Syria and Libya by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), also known as Daesh.
Dozens of MPs and peers have written to Mr Cameron urging him to use the UK’s position on the UN Security Council to begin the process of bringing war crimes prosecutions against Isil terrorists.
They argue that declaring the attacks to be genocide would not open the way for perpetrators to be brought to justice but could in itself help stop the killings.
Ministers have consistently avoided using the term, arguing this is a matter for international courts not states.
Yet last year the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, said she “stood ready” to begin a genocide inquiry – but could not do so legally without orders from the UN Security Council automatically because Iraq and Syria are not signatories to the ICC’s founding charter.
The House of Lords is expected to vote on the question of genocide on Monday through an amendment to the Immigration Bill, tabled by the cross-bench peer Lord Alton, a vocal supporter of persecuted religious minorities.
Lord Alton said: “Our amendment is the very least we can do: giving the UK a means to decry future genocides, and giving priority to those refugees which are suffering the worst violence.
“Political equivocation is frustrating at the best of times. But to equivocate while a genocide is underway is morally indefensible. This is the crime above all crimes. No more excuses – the Government must act.”
Baroness Kennedy QC said: “No one with a compassionate bone in their bodies would dream of denying safety to a genocide victim.
“Having spent time recently with Yazidi refugees, I am in no doubt whatsoever that this is what minorities in the region are suffering under Daesh – there is no question that all the legal conditions are satisfied.
“Unfortunately the government’s inertia is only too familiar. Too often we have been slow to respond to clear evidence of genocide, waiting for the atrocities to be concluded.
“Let us not repeat the same mistake, for the sake of those in the region who, as I speak, face the very real possibility of murder and burial in a mass grave, beheading or crucifixion.”
John Pontifex of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, who was in Syria last month, said: “Christians feel that they have been abandoned by the West as a whole, they feel that they have been left to face the worst that extremism can throw at them.
“This would throw them a lifeline of hope and show them that there are people who care about what has happened and are determined to bring these people to justice and hat the world sending a signal very clearly that it will not tolerate this butchery.
“It is a disgrace that it has taken so long but we are very grateful to John Kerry for having the guts and the stature to name it for what it is.”
Source: The Telegraph