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Yazidi Captives: Daesh

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 28 March 2017

4. What steps his Department is taking to help secure the release of Yazidi women held captive by Daesh. (909511)

As the House will know, significant progress has been made in liberating the city of Mosul, which will be a symbolic landmark in defeating Daesh in Iraq. We are extremely concerned for all those held by Daesh, including members of the Yazidi community. Ultimately, the only way of protecting minorities is by defeating Daesh and establishing strong governance and lasting peace.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. What support will be given to Yazidi women when they are released? Can he confirm that evidence will be taken from them so that we can accurately record the genocide of the Yazidi people?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. In the short term, we are providing refugee assistance and resettlement schemes, including Gateway, Mandate and Children at Risk, as well as putting funds into United Nations programmes. For the long term, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his Iraqi and Belgian counterparts have launched a global campaign to bring Daesh to justice. The campaign is designed to support all victims, including Yazidis.

The hon. Gentleman will know that when Yazidi women are released, they have great difficulty accessing the medical services—particularly the psychiatric services—that they need. Plane-loads of Yazidi women have been flown to Germany for treatment. Can Britain now do its bit and undertake to do the same thing?

The hon. Lady raises an important point. We have programmes that bring the vulnerable and those who have been affected to the UK, and we are also investing a huge amount of funding in programmes in-country. I will be more than delighted to write to her with more details of what we are doing.

The brutalisation of the Yazidi by Daesh has been a deliberate attempt to destroy the Yazidi people. Yazda, a Yazidi advocacy organisation, estimates that 35 Yazidi mass graves have been found. What support can my hon. Friend present to ensure that these crimes and graves are collated and evidenced?

As I have mentioned, the Foreign Secretary is leading on this, and it will take time. We need to be patient, because it is important that we conduct forensic examinations, preserve evidence and take testimonies, but we will bring to account those who have committed these atrocities.

Will the Minister join me in welcoming the establishment of a psychological training centre for former Daesh sex slaves at the University of Dohuk in Iraq, which is the first of its kind in the region? Can he confirm what support the UK Government will be giving to that groundbreaking trauma unit?

The hon. Lady illustrates just one example of how Iraq needs to step forward and move on from the period in which minority ethnic groups and others were not represented in the country. If we are to make a success of the situation once Daesh is removed, it is important to have facilities such as this in place to support those who have been affected. Most importantly, there needs to be an inclusive Government to ensure that ethnic groups are not isolated or persecuted as they have been.

It has been almost a year since the House of Commons voted to express its desire for the atrocities against the Yazidi people to be described as genocide. At the time, the Government said that they would not rush to judgment but would allow the legal process to take its course. Could the Minister give us an update on the process of those legal proceedings and when the Government anticipate that the genocide against the Yazidis will be recognised as such?

I have said that I believe that war crimes have taken place. However, it is not my judgment that counts, but that of the International Criminal Court, and when this was put to the International Criminal Court in 2014 we were vetoed by Russia and China. It is important that we continue to make the case, and it is important that we hold the perpetrators to account.

I congratulate the Minister on his actions last week.

I have been lucky enough to visit northern Iraq and to meet Yazidis in some of the internally displaced persons camps. What resources and preparation are we putting in place to make sure that they and others can get back to their homes once we have defeated Daesh?

The hon. Gentleman raises two important points. On the work that is happening in northern Iraq, we have put forward an extra £40 million to provide assistance to the displaced people. We should make it clear that despite their urge to return to their original houses—their original dwellings in their original communities—that must be done in line with the Iraqi authorities, because we are concerned about IEDs that have been placed there causing all the more stress, harm and, indeed, death.

May I pay tribute to the Minister for his extraordinary courage last Wednesday? As PC Palmer’s family said this weekend to the Minister and to others who rushed to help:

“There was nothing more you could have done. You did your best and we are just grateful he was not alone.”

Yazidi women, including girls as young as nine, have been raped, kidnapped and sold into slavery by Daesh terrorists. If proper mechanisms are not established to investigate these crimes, crucial evidence and witnesses will be lost and the victims will never have their day in court. What are the Government doing to prevent that, and will the Minister tell us how he is ensuring that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes will be brought to justice as quickly as possible?

I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady for her kind remarks. I make it clear that I was one of many who stepped forward on that dark day. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of the victims, including our own PC Keith Palmer.

The right hon. Lady raises an important point. We have not announced or trailed the exact details of the work we are doing to collect the evidence because there is a fear that there are those who would try to interrupt that process. Organisations are working quietly behind the scenes to collect the forensic evidence that they need, to preserve the evidence, as she said, and to collect testimonies. It will take time, but that is not broadcast in the way other things are for fear that people could try to disrupt it.