Turkey should be tried in the International Court of Justice for complicity in genocide against the Yazidis people while Syria and Iraq have failed in their duty to prevent the killings, said a statement supported by British human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy Investigation.
The groundbreaking report, prepared by a group of prominent human rights lawyers, seeks to emphasize states’ binding responsibility to prevent genocide on their territory, even when carried out by a third party such as the Islamic State (IS).
The lawyers, grouped under the title of the Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC), said states have a responsibility under international law to prevent the crime of genocide under the Genocide Convention. Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Chairman of the YJC, described the Yazidi genocide as “madness heaped on evil”.
“Existing mechanisms could have saved the Yazidis from what is now part of their past and part of their past partial destruction,” he said.
It is widely accepted that as of 2013, genocide was attempted in Iraq and Syria against the Yazidis, a religious minority. The report, which followed a three-year investigation examining the behavior of 13 countries, concluded that three of them failed in their duty to take adequate steps to prevent genocide.
In Turkey’s case, the committee went further, accusing its leaders of complicity in the massacres and claiming that it had failed to patrol its borders to prevent the free flow of IS fighters, including a significant number of Turkish ones national, to stop. Turkish officials said the criticism was unfounded.
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, the perpetrators of the genocide to strengthen.
“Turkish officials knew and/or were willfully blind to evidence that these individuals would use this training to commit prohibited acts against the Yazidis,” the report said.
The report found that similar allegations had been made against some Gulf countries, including Qatar, but insufficient evidence had been presented.
The 278-page report confirmed that by June 2014 Iraq had asked the UN to acknowledge ISIS atrocities, but accused the Iraqi government of failing to coordinate with Kurdish authorities or take action to keep the Yazidis safe.
The Syrian government, the report said, has failed to prevent the rendition and detention of enslaved Yazidis on its territory.
Turkey’s Ambassador to Britain Ümit Yalçın said the criticism was unfounded and unfair. He said Turkey “has played a key role in protecting Syrian civilians and minorities, including Yazidis, in the region from attacks and encroachments by terrorist groups since the early years of the conflict in Syria.”
“Turkey not only opened its doors and became a safe haven for millions of Syrians and Yazidis, but also provided protection for 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 north-western Syria.
“Moreover, in the past year, many Yazidi families who fled in north-west Syria tried to return to their homeland in north-east Syria, but [were] PKK/YPG prevented from doing so [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 in relation to the Yazidi genocide,” noting that IS as a non-state actor cannot be prosecuted under international law.
Meanwhile, states “failed their duty to prevent genocide for a variety of inhumane reasons.” If they’re not held accountable, she wrote, “the promise ‘never again’ rings hollow.”