UK recognises 'acts of genocide' against Yazidis by Islamic State

Ayman, a boy from a minority Yazidi community, who was sold by Islamic State militants to a Muslim couple in Mosul, hugs his grandmother after he was returned to his Yazidi family, in Duhok, Iraq, 31 January, 2017.Reuters

The British government on Tuesday officially acknowledged that the Islamic State group committed "acts of genocide" against the Yazidi people in 2014, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The UK has today formally acknowledged that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people by Daesh in 2014," the statement said, using the Arab acronym for the Islamic State.

So far, the UK has acknowledged only four other instances where genocide has occurred, the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and acts of genocide in Cambodia.

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the announcement comes ahead of events marking nine years since the "atrocities" were committed by the Islamic State against the Kurdish-speaking Yazidi minority in Iraq.

The Yazidis, whose pre-Islamic religion made them the target of IS extremists, were subjected to massacres, forced marriages and sex slavery during the jihadists' 2014-15 rule in northern Iraq province of Sinjar, the Yazidis' traditional home.

"The Yazidi population suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh nine years ago and the repercussions are still felt to this day," UK's Middle East minister Tariq Ahmad said in the statement.

"Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated," he added.

The official recognition follows a German Federal Court of Justice judgement which found a former IS fighter guilty of acts of genocide in Iraq.

The verdict was delivered in 2021 and upheld this January after the court rejected the defendant's appeal.

"The UK's position has always been that determinations of genocide should be made by competent courts", according to the statement.

UK's lower house of parliament, the House of Commons, had unanimously voted to condemn the IS's treatment of Yazidis and Christians in Iraq as amounting to genocide in 2016, in a rare instance of parliamentary determination of genocide.

The foreign ministry had refused to acknowledge the genocide then, in keeping with a long-standing policy on the determination of genocide by courts rather than governments.