On 11th August 2014, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received answers to four written questions on the situation in Iraq. The questions were originally tabled on 28th July 2014. Further questions regarding resettlement of vulnerable groups in the UK are expected to receive answers in due course.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the state of freedom of religion and belief in Iraq.
Lord Popat (Con): We are deeply concerned about the situation in Iraq including freedom of religion and belief. We condemn the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) threats to ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, including Christian, Yezidi and Turkomen and the desecration of mosques and churches by ISIL. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the member for Bournemouth East ( Mr Ellwood), met Archbishop Athanasius of the Syriac Orthodox Church in London on 29 July and issued a statement strongly condemning the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Our Ambassador in Baghdad has met religious representatives, including Chaldean Patriarch Luis Sako, and the Consul General in Erbil has met the Archbishop of Erbil and the Archbishop of Mosul to discuss the current situation, the needs of the Christian community, and UK humanitarian assistance to those displaced by fighting in Iraq. On Sunday 3 August, the British Chargé d‘Affaires attended a service at St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, joined by officials from our Embassy, to highlight the British Government’s continued support to Christians and other minorities affected by recent violence in Iraq.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to respond to the humanitarian situation caused by the displacement of persons from ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq.
Baroness Northover (LD): We are deeply concerned by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. DFID deployed an advisory team to Erbil in June 2014 to conduct a rapid humanitarian assessment and has committed £5 million of humanitarian aid to respond to the level of need in the north of Iraq. This will be distributed to those most in need through trusted and long-standing humanitarian partners.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to referring the alleged human rights abuses committed by ISIS to the International Criminal Court for further investigation and eventual prosecution.
Lord Popat: We condemn all human rights abuses in Iraq. However, Iraq is not a state party to the International Criminal Court and any referral would need to be through the UN Security Council. We have no plans for this at present but we will keep this under review. We are calling on the Government of Iraq to ensure that all crimes and human rights abuses committed in Iraq are properly documented to assist with the investigation, and bringing those responsible to account in the future.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to assist religious leaders in Iraq to respond collaboratively and in a non-sectarian manner to the human rights abuses allegedly committed in Iraq.
Lord Popat: We condemn the reported human rights abuses in Iraq and call for those responsible to be held to account. We meet representatives of Iraqi religious groups both in the UK and in Iraq, and fund a series of grass roots meetings with religious leaders of different faiths to combat sectarianism. We are encouraging influential religious leaders in Iraq to speak out publicly and condemn sectarian violence. The High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq has issued a strong statement of solidarity with Christians and Muslims in Mosul and Ninevah, citing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s actions to be entirely un-Islamic.
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