SIR ”“ What we are witnessing in northern Iraq today is a tragedy of historic proportions in which thousands of innocent people are at immediate risk of death for no other reason than their religious beliefs. Freedom of religion and belief, a right set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is being denied in the most gross and systemic way possible through the attempted extermination of religious minorities. There is no justification for the violation of this inalienable human right.
Such violations as are currently taking place are crimes against humanity that must be both stopped and punished. The culture of impunity within which these dehumanising atrocities have been committed needs to be challenged most vigorously. Given that Iraq is not a state party to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Government must now work towards a United Nations Security Council resolution that refers this matter to the ICC for investigation and, where necessary, prosecution. The international community must send a clear signal to those who are committing such atrocities that they will be held accountable for their actions.
These violations are, however, sadly part of a global pattern of increased hostility in society towards freedom of religion or belief, together with government restrictions of them. Governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations need to recognise this wider crisis and commit the necessary time, energy and resources to ensure greater respect for this fundamental freedom and forestall further tragedies.