On July 6, 2022, a group of international human rights lawyers published a report accusing Turkey, Syria and Iraq of failing to comply with their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention) in relation to the genocide of Daesh . The Daesh Genocide refers to the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh (also known as ISIS, ISIL) against Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria beginning around 2014. August 3 2014, Daesh attacked Sinjar, Iraq, killing many men. , enslaving women and girls for sexual slavery and boys to serve in the militia. Thousands of Yazidis fled to the mountains where many died of dehydration. To this day, mass graves continue to be discovered in Iraq. To date, more than 2,700 Yazidi women and children are missing after being abducted from Sinjar in August 2014.
The new report from the Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC) has concluded that there are reasonable grounds to conclude that at least three states, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, have breached one or more obligations under the Genocide Convention with respect to the genocide committed by Daesh. YJC is an ad hoc body established by the Accountability Unit, Women for Justice, the Bar Association International Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Association of England and Wales and the Geoffrey Nice Foundation, to investigate allegations of genocide committed against Yazidis since early 2013 by Daesh in Iraq and Syria. YJC has been charged with determining whether states can be brought to trial for alleged violations of international law relating to genocide, whether relating to the commission or failure to prevent the genocide of Yazidis.
According to the CJJ report, three states are failing to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
The YJC report concluded that there are reasonable grounds to conclude that Turkey knew or should have known of the serious risk that Daesh would commit genocide against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, Turkey failed to take all reasonably available means that could have prevented the perpetration of genocide against the Yazidis, including, “monitoring its borders and enforcing measures to stop the flow of [Daesh] fighters through Turkey, as well as the smuggling of materials and resources [Daesh]; prevent the sale, transfer and enslavement of Yazidi women and children that have occurred within its territory; and restrict the illicit oil trade, which financially benefited [Daesh] and allowed him to finance his commission of prohibited acts.
The YJC report further concluded that “publicly available information supports a prima facie case that Turkey was complicit in prohibited acts of genocide committed by Daesh.”
Finally, the report finds that Turkey is failing in its obligation to punish the perpetrators of genocide. Despite having relevant laws in place, Turkey has not prosecuted alleged perpetrators of genocide.
According to the YJC report, there are reasonable grounds to conclude that, since at least April 2013, Iraq knew, or should have known, of the serious risk of genocide against the Yazidis in Iraq. Furthermore, there are reasonable grounds to conclude that Iraq failed to use all reasonably available means to protect Yazidis and prevent the commission of genocide by Daesh. Among other things, the report suggests that the Iraqi federal government “has failed to coordinate diplomatically and/or militarily with the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure the safety and security of Yazidis in Sinjar and other areas. before August 3, 2014 and took no action”. to evacuate Yazidis to safe places given the clear risk of [Daesh] advance towards Sinjar, after taking Mosul in June 2014”.
Iraq has not enacted the national criminal legislation necessary to fulfill its obligations to punish genocide.
The YJC report says there are reasonable grounds to conclude that Syria knew, or should have known, of the serious risk that Daesh would commit genocide against Yazidis in Syria and Iraq. Nevertheless, Syria has not fulfilled its duty to prevent genocide. The report notes that “publicly available information supports the conclusion that no attempt was made by the Syrian government to provide any form of protection to Yazidis in any context prior to the commission of prohibited acts, during the commission of prohibited acts and/or after the commission of prohibited acts.
Syria has not enacted the national criminal legislation necessary to fulfill its obligations to punish genocide.
The report’s findings are based on publicly available reports and data from international organizations, reputable NGOs and other credible sources. According to the report, the conclusions will likely be supported by vast repositories of evidence held by states and international organizations.
The YJC report calls for action to be taken to hold the three countries accountable for their failures to prevent and punish the genocide against the Yazidis. Among other things, it calls for legal action to be taken against the three countries before the International Court of Justice to rule on violations of the Genocide Convention.
While Daesh fighters are primarily responsible for the atrocities committed against the Yazidis, these atrocities were made possible by States’ flagrant violations of obligations under the Genocide Convention. If we take the obligations under the Genocide Convention seriously, we must be prepared to enforce them, including before the International Court of Justice. Otherwise, the Genocide Convention is not worth the paper it is printed on.