Luke de Pulford is a member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and the Founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response. Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Crossbench Peer, is a Patron of the Coalition and sponsor of the Genocide Prevention Bill which recently received its First Reading in Parliament.
Last Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a historic resolution naming the murder of 1.3 million Armenians as a genocide.
It was historic in more ways than one. These killings, at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, occurred in 1915, and it’s taken 114 years to name this as the crime above all crimes – something that the UK, still failing to stand up to Turkish bullying, has signally failed to do.
But the real importance of the US decision is not historic, it’s contemporary.
On Monday a new Coalition for Genocide Response is being launched in Parliament to ensure that new genocides – like those against Yazidis and Christians in Iraq and Syria, Rohingya in Burma, or Uighurs in China, won’t have to wait a hundred years before a genocide is named.
Why does the name matter?
Because the 1948 Convention on Genocide lays on its signatories – including the UK – the duty to prevent, to protect, and then to bring to justice those responsible. It’s exactly to avoid having to do these things that governments of all shades have refused to describe atrocious crimes as acts of genocide.
That’s why a Bill was recently laid before Parliament to take away the decision from politicians and to put it into the hands of the High Court. Judges can then look at the evidence and make a preliminary declaration if they believe that a genocide is being committed.
Adama Dieng, the UN’s Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, puts it well when he says “Genocide is a process. The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers. It started with hate speech.”
Genocide requires planning, it requires preparation, it requires organisation, and above it all, it requires our ignorance of the red flags.
The consequences of our ignorance and our failure to act can be vividly seen at the Genocide Museum in Yerevan; at Israel’s Yad Vashem, where one of us stood just a few days ago; and at the genocide sites in Rwanda. What they have in common is that holocaust and genocide doesn’t happen overnight.
Professor Gregory Stanton of Mason University conducted research into the various stages of genocide and suggests ten that lead to the annihilation of peoples, ethnicities, faiths, and vulnerable minorities. These ten steps to a living hell are certainly useful analytical tools in explaining how infamous episodes of our tainted history have unfolded.
Studying these ten steps helps to distinguish situations that are escalating into mass atrocities. But the exercise is rendered worthless unless there are commensurate steps to fulfil the Genocide Convention’s triple duties of preventing, protecting, and punishing.
To have a better chance of preventing future infamies, we need to be canaries in the mine – always looking for the poisonous gases that lead to the mass graves and grievous obscenities of Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Iraq and Syria, and to the hideous camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen Belsen and the rest. And we need to have the ability to name this crime – the crime above all crimes – for what it is.
Take the situation in which Uighur Muslims in Western China now find themselves. At Monday’s launch of the Coalition for Genocide Response we will hear a first-hand account of what is underway in Xinjiang.
We will hear how an estimated one million Uighurs have been detained in camps to be “re-educated,” brainwashed, intimidated, and reprogrammed. In reality, the camps are far removed from any concept of education and operate like prisons.
As you consider the following, apply Professor Stanton’s ten steps to genocide. In a letter sent to Terry Branstad, the US Ambassador to China, by Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Chris Smith, they say:
“Thousands are being held for months at a time and subjected to political indoctrination sessions. Many have reportedly been detained for praying, wearing “Islamic” clothing, or having foreign connections, such as previous travel abroad or relatives living in another country. Reports have emerged of the deaths of detainees… there are reports that torture and other human rights abuses are occurring in overcrowded centers secured by guard towers, barbed wire, and high walls.”
What is afoot is undoubtedly in breach of Article II of the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
Other acts, including ‘Killing members of the group’ and ‘Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group’ also apply.
And using the Stanton Index there also are other indicators of genocide. Uighur DNA is being taken in the camps. This has happened to Falun Gong practitioners, whose organs have been forcibly and lethally harvested.
And as well as disrespecting the living even the dead are disrespected.
In 1984 George Orwell wrote that: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history”. To destroy the Uighur’s history and identity over 40 Uighur cemeteries have recently been destroyed, with bones and ancestors’ remains scattered.
And we know who have questions to answer. Men like:
One day, those responsible must be brought to justice.
In the short term, Magnitsky powers –promised by the Government in the recent Queens Speech – should be used to target the overseas assets of those believed to be responsible for egregious violations of human rights, paving the way for crimes against humanity and genocide.
At Monday’s launch Dr Enver Tohti, a former cancer surgeon from Xinjiang, will say why he believes a genocide against his Uighur people is underway. He has previously testified in the British, Irish, and European Parliaments about the forcible removal of organs, and says China continues to carry out illicit organ-harvesting.
In Xinjiang, he has presented evidence that China is acquiring mass collection of DNA from individuals not suspected of any crime through mandatory health examinations that include DNA collection, for ulterior purposes, and high rates of cancer among Uighur patients after their exposure thermonuclear blasts.
In 1997, Dr Tohti leaked his findings to a team of western journalists and an undercover documentary film about the nuclear tests was made in 1998: “Death on the Silk Road”. The documentary was broadcast in over 80 TV channels, including in Japan and on Channel 4 in the UK. As a result, he was forced to leave Xinjiang and was granted refugee status in the UK in 1999.
Dr Tothi says: “the world must wake up to the realities of the Genocide underway against the Uighurs. Unlike the Armenians it mustn’t take a hundred years before we name it for what it is.”
The Coalition will be launched at Westminster on Monday November 4th at 4.00pm in Committee Room 2A of the House of Lords. The Patrons include Baroness Helena Kenned QC, Justice Michael Kirby and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC.