Your voice has just secured what may be the first meaningful action at the United Nations (U.N.) in defense of Christians and other religious minorities facing genocide at the hands of ISIS jihadists in Iraq.
It is the result of years of relentless work behind the scenes and on the world stage, culminating in a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution specifically addressing ISIS’s “genocide.” It’s the first step in what will be a long process to protect Christians and other religious minority victims of genocide, but without your voice it wouldn’t be possible. The silent screams of hundreds of thousands of dying Christians would never have been heard.
Here is how your voice is being heard.
Four and a half years ago, the Islamic State (ISIS) formed and began its reign of genocidal terror in Syria and Iraq. During those four and a half years, the ACLJ has been working relentlessly to draw attention to the plight of and secure vital protection for persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria.
You’ve seen us say it a hundred times in emails, blogs, and on our daily radio broadcast. We have been laser focused in our international legal advocacy on a simple, two-part clarion call: 1) recognize the genocide and 2) protect Christians and other religious minorities.
We have engaged in efforts to mobilize the appropriate authorities in the United States and in the international community, to put an end to the ISIS genocide against Christians and other religious minorities and to bring relief and protection to the victims of ISIS’s genocide.
Many of you have partnered with us during these challenging years, signing petitions, sharing the plight of Christians facing genocide on social media, and adding your voices to our numerous legal letters. Your voice and our work are making an impact.
Our legal advocacy campaign against ISIS genocide began soon after its formation in April 2013. While we have engaged in numerous and varied efforts in that fight, we want to take the time to detail for you some of our more recent efforts that show how our work and your voice are affecting change, specifically at the U.N.
In April 2016, the ACLJ sent a letter to then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, requesting that the U.N. formally recognize that the ongoing atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians in Iraq and Syria constituted genocide. In that letter we urged:
The United Nations must stand against the evils of the ongoing genocide and use all available options to stop the genocide and protect the victims—by implementing appropriate penal tribunals, coordinating a more effective use of coalition military force, administering a more efficient delivery of aid, and providing meaningful in-region protection for victims such as the establishment of safe-zones. The Charter of the United Nations demands no less, and through the organs of the United Nations, equipped and empowered by the Genocide Convention, the United Nations has the unique capability to end the genocide and protect the Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities victimized thereby.
Shortly after the ACLJ sent that letter, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a report to the U.N. Security Council calling on the international community to “take steps to ensure the accountability of members of [ISIS] for the atrocious crimes they have committed” and promote stability in the areas that were liberated from ISIS forces.
In another effort to engage the U.N., we sent a letter to each one of the 47 Member States of the U.N. Human Rights Council, asking for them to support the naming of ISIS’s actions as “genocide” at the Council’s June 2016 meeting. Some of the Member States we contacted did indeed reference the genocide, as we had urged.
Then, in August 2016, the ACLJ submitted a letter to Adama Dieng, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, asking him to encourage the U.N. to formally recognize the ongoing atrocities committed by ISIS against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as genocide. Our letter asked Mr. Dieng “to urge the United Nations to declare that the acts committed by the Islamic State are genocide against Christians and other religious minorities, and to advocate and mobilize for action to halt the genocide without delay.”
As there are many bodies within the United Nations that have the ability to influence decision making, the ACLJ, through its European affiliate, the European Centre for Law & Justice (ECLJ), then sent a letter to every member of the U.N. Security Council in November 2016. We reminded the Security Council that the Charter of the United Nations demands that the U.N. do everything in its power to stand against the ISIS genocide and protect the victims, and urged each member to call for the Council first recognize the genocide, and then “vocalise [their] support for a referral by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of a competent tribunal in order to investigate violations by the Islamic State committed in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the region against Christians.”
Following our letter to the U.N. Security Council, we sent a legal letter to Fareed Yasseen, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the United States. In that letter we:
respectfully urge[d] [him] to make whatever demands or submissions necessary to the United Nations to initiate and request the international community to honor its commitments and obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Further, we respectfully request[ed] that [he] provide to us any suggestions on ways we may assist Iraq in mobilizing the international community to end the horrific and deadly acts of genocide and aid and protect the victims.
As you will see below, this letter to Iraq became a key part of securing a monumental resolution at the U.N. Security Council.
This year, in April, we sent a letter to the newly elected Secretary-General of the U.N., António Guterres. Our letter reiterated our previous correspondence to his predecessor, and requested that the new Secretary-General declare the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians as genocide, as “a declaration by your office that the Islamic State is engaged in genocide and a request by your office for the United Nations General Assembly (and other appropriate organs of the United Nations) to follow suit would carry significant weight.”
A few months later, on July 10, 2017, we sent another letter to the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, again urging him to “press all relevant U.N. bodies, including the Security Council and the Human Rights Council” to “recognise the ongoing atrocities as genocide . . . [and] to take the steps necessary to halt the genocide and fulfill its responsibility to protect those victimised.”
Here, again, we implored him to use the influence of his office to act. We specifically outlined for him two ways that the Security Council could begin to take action, known as the “responsibility to protect” – first, that Iraq could specifically request help from the Security Council and second, that the international community could take action if Iraq could not.
As you will see below, the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide then shared this information with the appropriate officials in Iraq that led to Iraq’s eventual request to the U.N. Security Council.
On July 24, 2017, we sent a letter to the British Government and other key world leaders, informing them of the numerous atrocities that ISIS has committed against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, and of the imperative need for the “international community [to] join together to stop [the] growing threat.” We urged them to take action.
Shortly after our letter to Britain, we received a response dated July 27, 2017, from the British Prime Minister’s Office (10 Downing Street) indicating that we would soon receive a more lengthy response from a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That more lengthy response was sent on August 14, 2017. The British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa thanked us for our letter, and among other things, affirmed:
I share your anger at the human suffering of Christians, Yezidis and other minorities in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East, many of whose communities have been devastated at the ends of the [ISIS]. I want to see Christians and other minorities continuing to live, worship, and prosper in the Middle East. We are doing all we can to make this happen – providing humanitarian assistance to all those who need it, including minority communities and consistently underlining with the region’s political leaders the importance of upholding freedom of religion and belief. . . .
Further in response to our call for action at the U.N., the U.K.’s response to us outlined a campaign to both bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice and protect the victims. It concluded, “We are working with our international partners, in particular the Government of Iraq, to bring a proposal at the UN to put the campaign into action.”
As you will see, that promise in response to our call to action, would become the unanimously passed Security Council resolution.
The next month, September 2017, we also received a response letter from Mr. Dieng, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. In his response, Mr. Dieng acknowledged our specific call to action, stating:
The call for accountability is a call I have made not only to Member States at the United Nations but also in my meetings with Iraqi authorities. I have highlighted the important contribution to reconciliation. I have also reiterated that taking steps towards accountability is critical to demonstrating that all populations will have a place in the future of Iraq, including ethnic and religious minorities.
He further informed us that he had shared the specific policy proposals we had provided him in our letter with the Iraqi government:
In the absence of accountability processes at the national level, the international community can explore the options that you set out in your letter, some of which can also be initiated by the Government of Iraq. I have personally shared these options with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq.
We also learned that, after Mr. Dieng received our letter and shared that information with Iraq, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq sent a letter in August 2017 to the U.N. Secretary-General and the Security Council requesting that they “ask the international community to provide assistance, so that [Iraq] can make use of international expertise in [its] effort to prosecute the terrorist entity [ISIS].”
Shortly thereafter, Iraq and the United Kingdom (which if you will recall responded to us regarding our direct call for action at the U.N.) co-sponsored a critical U.N. Security Council resolution.
Then, on September 21, 2017, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2379. That resolution empowers:
the Secretary-General to establish an Investigative Team, headed by a Special Adviser, to support domestic efforts to hold [ISIS] (Da’esh) accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the terrorist group [ISIS] (Da’esh) in Iraq, to the highest possible standards, . . . to ensure the broadest possible use before national courts, and complementing investigations being carried out by the Iraqi authorities, or investigations carried out by authorities in third countries at their request
Moreover, Resolution 2379 specifically acknowledged Iraq’s August letter to the U.N. Secretary-General and the Security Council requesting such assistance. Finally, the resolution, gives the U.N. Secretary-General 60 days to report back on a plan to implement the resolution. And for the U.N., 60 days is swift action.
Our letters to the U.N. Secretary-General, the U.N. Security Council, Iraq, the U.K., and the U.N. Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, which was followed by the unanimous passage of Resolution 2379, show how persistent advocacy works.
The U.N. has taken the first step toward recognizing the genocide against Christians – the collection of evidence. This evidence will later be used to bring to justice the perpetrators of the heinous and genocidal acts that have been committed against Christians and others.
But our work is not done. We have just sent an urgent follow-up letter to the U.N. Secretary-General calling on him to immediately implement the terms of the unanimous Security Council resolution. Our letter stated:
We, therefore, respectfully and solemnly urge you to appoint someone who will be relentless and thorough in collecting and detailing the atrocities being carried out against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq; and to appoint that person swiftly so this critical mission may be accomplished without delay.
In addition, we sent a follow-up letter to the U.N. Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Dieng. We offered to put both the Secretary-General and the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide in touch with contacts we have already established – individuals and groups on the ground in Iraq already doing the painstaking but critical work of collecting and preserving evidence of genocide.
Again, these are only the first steps in a long process. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue following-up with key world leaders and sending new legal letters. We will not stop fighting until, together, we are able to stop the genocide and protect Christians. Your voice is being heard. Your voice will continue to be heard. Join with hundreds of thousands of others and sign our petition.
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