UK formally declares Islamic State atrocities against Iraq’s Yazidi minority as genocide

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government on Tuesday formally declared that atrocities committed by the Islamic State group against the Yazidi people in Iraq were acts of genocide.

The U.K. Foreign Office said the government’s official acknowledgement came after a recent landmark ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice, which found a former member of IS, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Britain previously gave official acknowledgement of four other instances in which genocide occurred, including the Holocaust; in Cambodia during the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge, the 1994 mass ethnic killings in Rwanda; and the 1995 massacre of men and boys in and near the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

“The Yazidi population suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh nine years ago, and the repercussions are still felt to this day,” Tariq Ahmad, the U.K.’s minister of state for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations. “Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated,”

Tuesday’s decision was announced ahead of events in Baghdad marking nine years since the Islamic State group began atrocities targeting the Yazidi minority, considered heretics by the militant group.

The Islamic State declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swath of territory in Syria and Iraq that it seized in 2014. The extremist group attacked the heartland of the Yazidi community at the foot of Sinjar Mountain that year, killing hundreds of Yazidis and abducting thousands, more than half of them women and girls.

A regional court in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2021 sentenced Taha Al-J., whose full name wasn’t released because of privacy rules, to life imprisonment over the death of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl he had purchased as a slave and then chained up in the hot sun to die.

In January, Germany’s Federal Court upheld the sentence and rejected the defendant’s appeal. The case was the first conviction of an IS member for genocide.

Others including the United Nations and the European Parliament have also pronounced the IS assault on the Yazidis a genocide.

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