Turkey should be accused in the International Court of Justice of being complicit in acts of genocide against the Yazidi people, while Syria and Iraq failed in their duty to prevent the killings, according to an investigation endorsed by British human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy.
The groundbreaking report, compiled by a group of leading human rights lawyers, seeks to highlight the binding responsibility of states to prevent genocide on their territory, even if it is perpetrated by a third party such as the Islamic State (IS).
The lawyers, grouped under the title of Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC), said there was a responsibility under international law for states to prevent the crime of genocide under the Genocide Convention. Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, chairman of the YJC, called the genocide of the Yazidi people “madness piled on evil”.
“The mechanisms in place could have saved the Yazidis from what is now part of their past and their past partial destruction,” he said.
It is widely believed that genocide was attempted against Yazidis, a religious minority, from 2013 in Iraq and Syria. The report, which follows a three-year investigation into the conduct of 13 countries, found that three of them failed in their duty to take reasonable steps to prevent genocide.
In the case of Turkey, the committee went further, accusing its leaders of being complicit in the massacres, alleging that it had failed to monitor its borders to prevent the free movement of IS fighters, including a number large number of Turkish nationals. Turkish officials said the criticisms were baseless.
The committee claimed that from April 2014, Turkish officials turned a blind eye to the sale, transfer and enslavement of Yazidi women and children, and helped train ISIS-affiliated fighters to fight its Kurdish enemies in Syria, thus empowering the perpetrators of the genocide.
“Turkish officials knew and/or deliberately ignored evidence that these individuals would use this training to commit prohibited acts against Yazidis,” the report said.
The report notes that similar allegations have been made against some Gulf states, including Qatar, but insufficient evidence has been produced.
The 278-page report acknowledged that in June 2014, Iraq asked the UN to acknowledge ISIS atrocities, but accused the Iraqi government of failing to coordinate with Kurdish authorities or take action. to evacuate Yazidis to safety.
According to the report, the Syrian government has failed to prevent the transfer and detention of enslaved Yazidis on its territory.
Turkey’s Ambassador to the UK, Ümit Yalçın, said the criticisms were unfounded and unfair. He said Turkey “from the early years of the conflict in Syria has played a key role in protecting Syrian civilians and minorities, including Yazidis, in the region from attacks and violations by terrorist groups.
“Turkey has not only opened its doors and become a haven for millions of Syrians and Yazidis, but has also provided protection to the people of the region through three counter-terrorism operations in Syria. Today, Yazidis live peacefully in areas controlled by the legitimate Syrian opposition in northwestern Syria.
“Furthermore, in the past year many Yazidi families who took refuge in northwestern Syria tried to return to their homes in northeastern Syria, but [were] prevented from doing so by the PKK/YPG [the initials of the Kurdish groups in Turkey and Syria].”
Lady Kennedy, in her joint foreword with Lord Alton, said “there is an ocean of impunity with regard to the Yazidi genocide”, noting that ISIS as a non-state actor cannot be prosecuted under of international law.
Meanwhile, states had “failed in their duty to fulfill their responsibilities to prevent genocide for various inhumane reasons”. If they are not held accountable, she wrote, “then the promise of ‘never again’ rings hollow.”