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Displaced Yazidis and Survivors of Daesh Violence

Volume 798: debated on Tuesday 2 July 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken (1) to support access to justice for displaced people from the Yazidi community in Iraq, and (2) to enable survivors of Daesh violence to return home.

My Lords, the UK has supported accountability for Daesh crimes in Iraq, including those against the Yazidi community. We led international efforts to pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 2379 in 2017 and to establish the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh—UNITAD. We have committed £23.5 million to the United Nations Funding Facility for Stabilization to rebuild areas liberated from Daesh and to encourage the safe, dignified and voluntary return of Daesh victims.

My Lords, recent fires in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq have led to significant damage not only to the crops in that area—therefore affecting the decisions of those who might wish to return—but to the mass war graves that are key evidence if there is to be justice for the Yazidi families, many of whom are still living in and around Dohuk. In the absence of a strong system of governance, bringing proper security into this area is proving very difficult. Will the British Government put pressure on the Government of Iraq, with whom they have a good relationship, and other international partners, to ensure that more speed is given to the need for a fresh system of governance in Sinjar, and a stronger security response to these fires and other ongoing issues?

The noble Lord raises a vital issue. Security, marginalisation, access, services and jobs are the principal concerns for minority communities. Last week, President Salih met the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, and the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mr Mohamed Ali Alhakim, met the Foreign Office Minister Dr Murrison and my noble friend Lord Ahmad. We reaffirmed our commitment to Iraq, including in areas such as security, but the noble Lord might be interested to learn that President Salih also discussed with Ministers the work of the Government of Iraq in the Nineveh Plains area to generate a local police force from the local population, so that the Christian community feels safe to return home. There is work happening on both fronts.

My Lords, the Minister is to be congratulated on the work of Her Majesty’s Government in promoting Resolution 2379 at the Security Council, setting up the investigative team. Can she tell us what will happen next to bring people to justice by, for instance, supporting Germany, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands in establishing—as they have called for—an ad hoc tribunal, so that those who committed crimes against humanity and genocide can be tried?

The investigative team has been working hard to collect and preserve evidence of the commission of Daesh crimes before that evidence is lost. It is important that it is Iraq which decides any next steps for crimes committed on Iraqi soil and against Iraqi victims. The UK is clear that those who have fought for or supported Daesh should, whatever their nationality and wherever possible, face justice for their crimes in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which is often in the region where their offences were committed.

Could my noble friend the Minister say what plans the Government have to protect the rights of religious minorities in the region, such as the Yazidis, through DfID’s programmes?

Since 2014, DfID has committed £252.5 million in humanitarian support to Iraq, and that is providing a vital lifeline of shelter, medical care and clean water to millions of the most vulnerable in Iraq, including minorities such as Yazidis. We have also contributed £23 million to the United Nations Funding Facility for Stabilization, which has been helping to stabilise areas liberated from Daesh and re-establish security, basic services and inclusive local governance.

My Lords, has the Minister met or heard Nadia Murad, the Nobel laureate and young Yazidi woman, who has written and spoken about the abuse that she has suffered? If she has, does she agree that what Nadia says shows that sexual violence was deliberately used, and should therefore be counted as a war crime?

I assure the noble Baroness that I have indeed heard of Nadia Murad and, as the noble Baroness will be aware, the UK is working with partners to develop the Murad code. The code will capture international standards and best practice that Governments, international agencies and NGOs should adhere to when gathering evidence for judicial purposes. I am pleased to say that we will launch the Murad code at the PSVI international conference on 18-20 November.

My Lords, picking up that last point, the conference will be vital in raising awareness of the horrendous crimes that were committed, including horrendous sexual violence. Can she give us a commitment that the Government will ensure that first-hand testimonies, particularly of the Yazidi women, are heard at that conference, and ensure that the world truly knows what went on?

The noble Lord makes a very important point. I do not have detail as to the format of the conference, but I can certainly make further investigation and I shall undertake to write to him.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that constant armed interventions by members of the Security Council—I refer particularly to Russia, Britain and America—in factional disputes in the Middle East make the refugee crisis there infinitely worse? Does she further agree that it is time to look again at the role of the Security Council and to get some constraints on the way it operates?

The noble Lord raises an issue that is somewhat wider than the scripted Question on the Order Paper, but none the less it is an important point. The Government’s view is that the United Nations Security Council is an extremely important body. It might not always work to everyone’s satisfaction, but over the years it has proved to be a forum for very effective action, not least relating to the subject matter of the Question, which, as I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, led to international efforts to pass at the Security Council the very resolution that is helping desperate people in Iraq.