Testifying at the United Nations Defending Persecuted Christians from ISIS Genocide
Today, we delivered an oral intervention at the United Nations (U.N.) defending our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ who are victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS (the Islamic State) and other radical jihadists.
This oral intervention to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) follows up our letter to UN HRC Member States last week urging them to follow international legal obligations and declare ISIS's atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide.
Earlier today, Grégor Puppinck, the Executive Director of our affiliate with consultative status at the U.N. – the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) – delivered the following oral intervention before the Thirty-Second Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva:
ISIS is committing genocide; we cannot stay silent and passive.
The EUROPEAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE thanks the Commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic for gathering the evidences of the genocide committed by ISIS.
We ask again the HRC to recognize ISIS’s commission of the crime of genocide.
Along with local Christian leaders and NGOs, we stress that Christians are also victimes of ISIS genocide, victims of mass crimes committed with the clear “intent to destroy” them as religious group. The possibility to avoid death paying jizya does not negate ISIS' intent to destroy this religious group.
The crimes committed by ISIS are the continuity of an evil local tradition of persecution against minorities, including the 1915 genocides against Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks. We should all recognise those genocides and condemn the ideology inspiring them.
Nowadays, we can prosecute those criminals. Therefore, the ECLJ strongly supports the call for the Security Council:
- to act under chapter 7, taking actions against ISIS and sanctions against States and entities supporting it;
- and to refer those crimes to the International Criminal Court;
The ICC should also exercise its jurisdiction over the contracting States to the Rome Statute and their nationals who are accomplices to ISIS.
As well, every State should fulfil its commitment under the Genocide Convention to prosecute ISIS accomplices among its nationals.
Finally, the ECLJ calls for the urgent establishment of a “secured home” in the region for the minorities, under international protection.
This intervention aligns with our UN submission less than three weeks ago. As ISIS atrocities continue with unparalleled barbarity and evil, we must keep speaking out and urging global leaders to do the right thing.
As Grégor alluded to in the oral intervention, just this week the Human Rights Council released a report calling ISIS’s treatment of the Yazidis genocide. While such a declaration is a step in the right direction, the Council specifically left out other religious minorities, including Christians, who face similar conditions as the Yazidis.
In explaining its decision to leave Christians out of their declaration, the Council wrote:
While the Christian communities still living in ISIS-controlled territory live difficult and often precarious existences, are viewed with suspicion, and are vulnerable to attack if ISIS perceive they are seeking protection from non-aligned forces, their right to exist as Christians within any Islamic state existing at any point in time, is recognised as long as they pay the jizya tax.
This argument fails to fully appreciate how the jizya tax is used against Christians and the full breadth of the threats Christians face at the hands of ISIS. ISIS has expressed their specific intent to kill all Christians if they do not convert or pay jizya. Paying jizya or converting to Islam to avoid death are not meaningful alternatives, as the many Christians who are too poor to pay the tax have no option but to flee their homeland, deny their faith, or die.
The jizya tax is a devious ploy of the ISIS jihadists used to extort money from Christians, often right before they turn around and murder those same Christians. Jizya should never be legitimized, especially by an international legal body holding itself out as protecting human rights.
Additionally, international law as enshrined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide does not require that the targeted group be destroyed completely in order for it to constitute genocide. Intending to destroy the targeted group "in part" fully suffices. As such, one cannot legitimately claim that, because some Christians can save their lives by paying jizya, ISIS is not engaged in committing genocide against Christians. A substantial number of Christians have already been killed. More will be killed if they either decline to pay or cannot pay jizya. Converting to Islam, paying jizya, or suffering death, all amount to “intent to destroy in whole or in part” as outlined in Article II of the Genocide Convention.
And this discussion only scratches the surface of the means by which ISIS is eradicating Christians from the very cradle of Christianity.
Our international legal advocacy for the persecuted Church has helped lead both the U.S. State Department and European Parliament to recognize what ISIS is doing against Christians as genocide. But that’s only the first step. Now the international community must come together to act and meet moral and international legal obligations to stop the genocide.