Last week, in the biggest back-bench rebellion in recent times, thirty-four Conservative MPs broke the whip on a cross-party amendment to the trade bill, which lost by only 11 votes. The amendment comes back to the Commons next week, and your MP is one a few who are identified as key to which way the final vote will fall.
The amendment gives the right to an individual or group whose people are targeted by genocide to appeal to the UK High Courts to formally determine that genocide is occurring, whereon parliament will vote to revoke any trade agreements with the state found to be perpetrating genocide. Formally recognising that a genocide is occurring would also require the UK to meet its obligations under the Genocide Conventions and Responsibility to Protect.
The world’s historic failures to prevent genocide is closely linked to our failure to determine that genocide is occurring in a timely manner. In the last three decades, Bosnia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Darfur, Iraq, Myanmar, Rwanda and Syria to name but some, have all experienced large-scale organised killing of civilians, much of which was preventable. Indeed, since 1945 genocides and politicides around the world have claimed the lives of more than 80 million victims. Many multiples of this number have also suffered torture, sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, displacement, forced starvation and disease, which always accompany such crimes.
The government is putting a lot of pressure on its MPs to vote against the amendment when it returns to the house next week, so it is vital we also apply people pressure and call upon our MPs to vote with their consciences and not with the whip.
You can help – please write to your MP today.
We have drafted a letter below which you can adapt and send to your MP. It includes rebuttals to some of the weak arguments the government is using against the amendment.
You can send your MP an email by clicking here.
Thank you, we really appreciate the support!
Dear (insert MP name),
Please vote to support the revised anti-genocide amendment to the Trade Bill.
Since 1945 genocides and politicides around the world have claimed the lives of more than 80 million victims. Many multiples of this number have also suffered torture, sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, displacement, forced starvation and disease, which always accompany such crimes. Much of this was preventable, and one of the biggest barriers to preventative action has been a failure of countries like the UK to formally determine that genocide was occurring.
Please note that the government’s case that the courts should not have power to revoke trade deals agreed by a sovereign parliament has been listened to, and after a very narrow defeat in the House of Commons, the amendment has been revised to make explicit that action on trade deals (after a court judgment) is a matter for Parliament.
I am aware that the government claims to be offering a concession that a Parliamentary Select Committee may raise concerns of genocide with the Government and request a response, but, as I am sure you are aware, this is not a compromise at all because (a) the power to do this already exists; (b) where this option has been used, notably in respect of the genocide against the Yazidis, the Government has ignored select committee requests; (c) it has been longstanding Government policy that genocide determination is not a political decision, but a judicial one
Indeed, Boris Johnson himself said on 20 January 2021 that, “the attribution of genocide is a matter for judicial decision”. Therefore, if the UK does not wish to offer trade deals with genocidal states, the courts must have a role in establishing whether or not genocide has, in fact, occurred. That is UK policy.
Noting the government’s policy that only a court may rule on genocide, Rahima Mahmut, UK Director of the World Uyghur Congress said of this amendment: “UK policy is clear: the government won’t act unless the court has ruled genocide. So, we Uyghurs need our day in court, and we need it now. Please do not deny us this opportunity.”
Where international courts are barred from making determinations of genocide, only UK courts are available venues. In the case of the Uyghur, knowing that the UN route to genocide recognition is closed owing to China’s veto, the UK government cannot claim to be serious about preventing genocide if it refuses an opportunity to allow UK courts to examine the evidence and rule whether or not genocide is occurring.
Our UK courts are the finest in the world and they already have the competency to make a prelimary determination as set out in the amendment.
Please support this amendment when it comes before the House of Commons.