Australian parliament recognises sexual violence against Yazidis as constituent of genocide

On Monday 26 February,  Australia’s House of Representatives agreed to a motion recognising ISIS’ genocide of the Yazidi in northern Iraq. The motion was tabled by Liberal Member for Dunkley, Chris Crewther and prioritised the need to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the genocide. Indeed, the motion “recognises the importance of justice for Yazidi victims and survivors of ISIL and calls on the Australian Government to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of ISIL’s crimes against the Yazidis where possible in Australian courts, including by providing mutual legal assistance, and supporting other national, international and/or hybrid investigations.”

Watch the speeches below or read the transcript in Hansard.

Recognition of the genocide has been important to the healing of the Yazidi community and a strategic priority for Yazidi rights organisation, Yazda. Yazda’s legal counsel, Amal Clooney, said the motion was “another important step towards accountability. The crimes must first be acknowledged; and then those responsible for them must be brought to justice.” Genocide scholar and Yazidi rights activist, Nikki Marczak campaigned for parliamentary recognition of the genocide as well as justice for survivors.

Labor Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann seconded the motion. She reminded the House that last year, Australia updated federal legislation on war crimes to ensure it applies to members of organisations such as ISIS. “When we ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, we took on the responsibility of investigating war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide and prosecuting them in our own courts… But the last time an Australian court heard a case of war crimes was 1951.”

Speeches from members from both sides of parliament highlighted the prosecutorial aspect of the motion, the use of sexual violence as a constituent act of the genocide; how such issues were relevant to current affairs within Australia not just across the globe; and the powerful personal stories of those who personally experienced the genocide.

Mr CREWTHER: I move:
That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) genocide is a crime under international law, which has been enacted into Australian law through Division 268 of the Australian Criminal Code; and
(b) the Iraqi Council of Ministers, United Nations institutions, and many parliaments have recognised that ISIL’s crimes against the Yazidis constitute genocide;

(2) welcomes the Government’s decisive action in resettling Yazidi refugees;

(3) condemns the genocide perpetrated against Yazidis by ISIL;

(4) calls for continued support for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL and efforts to liberate Yazidis in ISIL captivity;

(5) recognises the importance of justice for Yazidi victims and survivors of ISIL and calls on the Government to continue to support accountability for the perpetrators of serious international crimes against the Yazidis, including, where appropriate, in Australian courts and in other jurisdictions, where these are consistent with international standards;

(6) calls on the Government to continue supporting the formation of an Investigative Team pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2379 (2017) and, once established, to support it in the collection, preservation and storage of evidence of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; and

(7) supports the:

(a) continued efforts to defeat ISIL militarily and ideologically via de- radicalisation and countering violent extremism programs;
(b) continued consideration of the plight of the Yazidis in the development of Australian humanitarian policies and programs;
(c) continued provision of psychological and other social support services for Yazidi refugees living in Australia;
(d) right of the Yazidis and all minorities to live in peace, safety and freedom in Syria and Iraq and to participate in relevant political processes; and
(e) protection of Yazidis, Christians and other minorities in Iraq, under United Nations supervision and in cooperation with relevant authorities and minorities.

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