UK Lawyers Gather Evidence Against Countries over Yazidi Genocide

A group of high-level British lawyers has been compiling evidence to show that one or more countries failed in their international obligations to prevent genocide against the Yazidi people. 

The lawyers formally announced their collaboration as the Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC) today. They have been working for the past two and a half years to investigate the genocide committed against Yazidis in northern Iraq by the Islamic State since early 2013. 

The YJC group includes five international human rights organizations. It is charged by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who previously was a lead prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The lead patrons are Helena Kennedy QC and David Alton. 

The YJC is expected to name three countries in a report next month. 

This will mark one of the first times that countries have faced the risk of action against them for failing to prevent genocide. It could open up a new form of human rights accountability. 

Evidence has been examined that as many as 10 countries could be deemed responsible for the failure to prevent genocide under the United Nation’s Genocide Convention. Under article 1 of the 73-year-old convention, countries have a responsibility to prevent, prosecute and punish genocide. 

The aim is to bring these countries before the international court of justice (ICJ), which is a step that would require another country to take action.  If the case is successful, the states may then be required to pay reparations to the genocide victims. 

So far there has been almost no accountability whatsoever for the Yazidi genocide, except for the prosecution in Germany in November of a sole Islamic State fighter. He was found guilty of genocide over the death of a five-year-old Yazidi girl, whom he bought as a slave in 2015. 

The YJC says there is evidence that the genocide is ongoing, and that Yazidis remain in an extremely precarious position in Iraq and Syria. This is as a result of the recent resurgence of the Islamic State, Turkish drone strikes, and an overall sense of neglect by Iraq. 

More than 5,000 Yazidis have been killed, and more than 400,000 have been forced from their homes and displaced. 

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