UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria recognizes genocide by ISIS

Geneva, 21 June 2016

On 21 June 2016, the UN Human Rights Council continued its 32nd Session of the interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic. With the presentation of its report, titled “'They came to destroy': ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis” (15 June 2015), the COI argued that ISIS is guilty of genocide against the Yazidis and called upon the UN Security Council to refer this case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) “or to establish an ad hoc tribunal with relevant geographic and temporal jurisdiction.”

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While applauding the COI's report, some states and NGOs noted that the victims of genocide were not limited to the Yazidis alone. For instance, Ms. Charlotte Vangrunderbeek stressed that Belgium is “particularly alarmed...on the genocide committed by Da'esh [ISIS] against Yazidis and other ethnic and religious groups.” On behalf of Germany, Mr. Frank Jarasch remarked and asked the COI: “The Yazidis are only one minority group in an extremely diverse region. Could you please provide more information on the situation of other minorities in Syria?”

Among the NGOs, for example, the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) stated that ISIS was indeed committing a genocide against the Yazidis, while also calling on the Human Rights Council to recognize that Arameans and other ethno-religious minorities are also victims of this same genocide. Its director, Mr. Grégor Puppinck, said that “the crimes committed by ISIS are the continuation of a local tradition of persecution of minorities, including the 1915 Genocide against Armenians, Arameans and Greeks.”

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The WCA submitted the below statement, emphasizing similarly that the atrocities against the Arameans also amount to genocide. After private consultations with Mr. Paulo Pinheiro, Chairman of the COI, and his team, the WCA Delegation learned that the COI is most willing to receive more information about the crimes against humanity by ISIS against Syria's indigenous Arameans. However, Mr. Pinheiro clarified: “The COI does not rely on external reports for its findings. We base our conclusions solely on our own investigations and interviews with victims. We would appreciate it if you can introduce us to victims of crimes committed by ISIS against Aramean Christians whom we could interview.”

The WCA promised to continue cooperating with the COI, providing this independent commission with all the necessary information for its ongoing investigations, so that the genocide against the Yazidis, Arameans and other vulnerable ethno-religious groups can be recognized and the international community can finally act upon these disappearing groups.

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The WCA statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council Members and the COI:


Thank you, Mr. President.

It is fair and even necessary that Syria’s vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities have been given broader attention in 2016. This became clear when overwhelming evidence convinced genocide scholars, the Parliaments of the EU and the Council of Europe, the US House of Representatives, the UK House of Commons and world leaders to recognize unequivocally that ISIS is guilty of genocide against Yazidis, Christians (above all the Arameans) and other vulnerable minorities.

Member States must now embrace the shared responsibility to take all necessary measures to punish and prevent these ongoing acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war that ought to protect the civilian population from deliberate acts of violence.

Therefore, we urge the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the Human Rights Council and the United Nations Security Council to adopt a fairly balanced resolution on the situation in Syria by recognizing that ISIS also committed a genocide against Syria’s indigenous Aramean population on equal footing with other targeted ethnic and religious minorities. Recent events confirm again the special intent of the destruction of this distinct ethnic, religious and linguistic group.

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Just last Sunday, for example, a terrorist blew himself up in the north-eastern Syrian town of Qamishli in a failed attempt to assassinate the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch and hundreds of innocent Arameans, killing two Arameans and injuring five others. This foiled attack was planned to take place after the Pentecost celebration and during the commemoration of the still unrecognized Ottoman genocide during World War I, when 70% of the Aramean people were exterminated from their historic homeland in this same region of Qamishli, which was founded in 1926 by Arameans and where their existence is also being threatened today by the YPG Kurdish forces.

The international community must take urgent action to protect the rapidly disappearing ethnic, religious and linguistic mosaic in the Middle East. Providing humanitarian and development aid to the neglected minorities should be no consideration, but an obligation.

Without an urgent demand for immediate action today, tomorrow it will be too late.

Thank you, Mr. President.

To download this statement in PDF, click here.

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Mr. Johny Messo, President of the WCA, in consultation with Mr. Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

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The Aramean delegation to the UN office in Geneva, f.l.t.r. Ms. Karina Shiroma, Mr. Jacob Harman, Ms. Sarah Bakir, Mr. Johny Messo, Ms. Maria-José Manzano and Ms. Alexandra Tawaifi.






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