#NeverAgain: Justice for Iraqi Christians is long overdue

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Photo Credit: Ewelina Ochab

By Ewelina Ochab

In November I visited Iraq where I met Iraqi Christian internally displaced persons living in Erbil. I met with a number of families from Mosul, Quaragosh, Karamless, and Bartallah that have fled Daesh. I also met with several NGOs helping Christians in the Middle East, including SOS Chretiens, a number of NGOs collecting the evidence of the Daesh atrocities, including Shlomo and Hammurabi Human Rights Organisations, and a number of religious leaders.  Lastly, I visited some of the liberated areas: Quaragosh, Karamless, and Bartallah.

After Daesh took over Ninevah Plains in August 2014, the Iraqi Christians have fled to Erbil and other parts of Kurdistan. Hundreds of Iraqi Christians have left the region for Jordan, Lebanon, and other countries. However, there are still many internally displaced Iraqi Christians living in Kurdistan. There are four camps for Iraqi Christians in Erbil. Families live there in small metal containers. They are provided with some humanitarian assistance. They are reasonably safe. However, many families continue to leave every day.

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        Photo Credit: Ewelina Ochab

Those who stayed the last two years and three months still hope that they would be able to go back to their homes. However, I have seen their homes in Ninevah Plains and it seems that they will not be able to return anytime soon. The three towns I managed to visit: Quaragosh, Bartallah, and Karamless are destroyed. Daesh looted one house after another without leaving any stone unturned. The houses, churches, schools, and shops are looted, burnt down, and some contractually damaged. In every church that I have visited: crosses are broken, the statutes of Jesus and Holly Mary are destroyed, Holly Bibles and books burnt (see: speakupagainstgenocide.wordpress.com/blog/) . These pictures from the recently liberated areas send one and very clear message – Daesh specifically intended to destroy Christianity in the area and everything that Christianity is associated with. This is genocide.

It’s been over four weeks since some of the towns in Ninevah Plains have been liberated, however, there is still a lot of work before people will be able to go back and start rebuilding their lives. The Ninevah Plains Units are checking houses for explosives and Daesh tunnels, and making the safe houses. Some of the houses destroyed by Daesh would need to be checked whether their construction is safe and sound for people to live in. The Daesh tunnels would have to be sealed off. The list of necessary works goes on.

However, Ninevah Plains needs more than only reconstruction of the towns.  The persecuted minorities in Ninevah Plains need a guarantee that the atrocities committed by Daesh will never happen again. They need a guarantee that they will be safe in their homes and will not have to flee in the middle of the night yet again. They also need justice. Recognising the atrocities committed against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide is the first step towards the adequate administration of justice, reconciliation, and healing. The Daesh fighters must be prosecuted for their crimes amounting to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The victims deserve justice and this justice is long overdue.

Ewelina Ochab serves as a legal counsel in Vienna, Austria for ADF International. Her interests include persecution of Christians worldwide, ISIS/Daesh genocide in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram in West Africa and minorities in South Asia. She has presented reports in the United Nations Forum on Minority rights. Ewelina obtained a LL.B degree with honours at Kent university, UK and currently is She is a PhD candidate in International Law and Medical Ethics.  She also published a book on ISIS/Daesh genocide ‘Never Again: Legal Responses to a Broken Promise in the Middle East’

Saudia Arabia, The new UN Custodian of the Human Rights?

copyright CC CHRISTOPHER DOMBRES

Saudi Arabia has been appointed as the head of a United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) panel. No, it is not a joke, even though in normal cases, the words “Saudi Arabia” and “human rights” in the same sentence are a hint to yet another break of fundamental human rights in the Arabic country. Not surprisingly, this decision has been labelled as the “final nail in the coffin for the credibility of the UNHRC”. Just as a quick reminder, 87 people had been put to death in Saudi Arabia alone in 2014. This number is going to be topped this year, as we are already heading towards 100 executions (Amnesty International report these figures are much higher).

Human rights violations in Saudi Arabia commits (and the list is long) include torture, executions, religious persecution, violation of rights related to gender equality and information rights. These fundamental rights are violated; let alone modern concepts as freedom of speech, right to assembly association or due process of the law.

Nowadays, the aggression against Yemen is probably the best proof of the Arabic arrogance and disrespect of the International rules. In fact, Saudi Arabia has intervened in the domestic civil war, disregarding the principle of self- determination. Local Yemeni forces, loyal to the former president Saleh, were contesting the internationally recognized government of President Hadi. The civil war is one of the numerous outcomes of the Arab spring in the region and Saudi Arabia has definitely no right of intervention in Yemen’s internal affairs. According to the media reports, there are ten million people in the need of food, water and medical assistance. Nearly 1000 children have died. The situation is desperate.

Nevertheless, the country will now play quite an important role in the UNHRC. The panel it will lead is responsible, among other tasks, for interviewing and selecting experts who examine the human rights records of countries. To be honest, Saudi Arabia is most probably one of the least qualified countries to assume this role.

As said, this decision is but another threat to the UN´s credibility, but most probably the roots of wrong decisions are to be looked for in the structure, principles and processes of the institution.

As a basic principle, for instance, all members of the UN should be equal (this is why each state has got one vote, regardless of anything): “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members”, this is stated by art. 2 of the UN Charter.

However, there are countries which are “more equal” than others, apparently: “Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters (not procedural ones) shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; …”, UN Charter, art. 27, par. 3. This means that the permanent members (United Kingdom, United States of America, France, People´s Republic of China, Russian Federation) can block any decision of the institution. The UN has been founded in 1945, immediately after WWII, in order to “maintain international peace and security” (superfluous to remind that this aim has not been reached). The UN is now 70 years old and it has never been able to modernize itself in order to reflect the new situation of the geopolitical relations. If the veto- right had been kept only for the first years in order to grant to the then biggest actors of the international politics the power of making relevant decisions, it would have been understandable, but today it is not justifiable anymore.

Uncountable are the times the UN has interfered in internal situations, which were not international issues and may times UN has closed their eyes in front of genocides and continuous disregard of the humanitarian law.

These examples are made just and only in order to back the statement that the UN´s decision processes and organizational structure are spoiled and however the decision of appointing Saudi Arabia as head of the UNHRC´s panel cannot be a transparent one.

It is a shame to have a country which has such a poor human rights record to be the custodian of United Nations Human Rights Panel. If you want to try to change something, please sign and share this petition to urge United Nations to remove Saudia Arabia from the position it does not deserve.

Sign a petition here: Remove Saudi Arabia from the UN Council on Human Rights

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