The Yazidis and the crime of genocide: seeking recognition and accountability

About the stakeholder conference

Anglia Ruskin University is at the forefront of promoting justice and accountability for victims of international crimes, particularly when these involve vulnerable minorities.

In 2015, ARU began a project, led by Dr Aldo Zammit Borda, working with representatives of the Yazidi community to seek recognition and accountability for the crimes that were committed against them by Islamic State (Daesh) fighters since August 2014.

According to a report of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, pointedly titled They came to destroy, Daesh sought to destroy the Yazidis through countless atrocities including killings; sexual slavery, enslavement and torture. The Commission of Inquiry concluded that Daesh had committed these atrocities with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Yazidis of Sinjar, and had, therefore, committed the crime of genocide.

Since the publication of this report and other findings, several states and international organisations have recognised the crime of genocide against the Yazidis thanks to the efforts of YAZDA, Sinjar Foundation and others. ARU has worked closely with the Honourable Vian Dakhil, who was responsible for drawing the world’s attention to the plight of the Yazidis through her speech in the Iraqi Parliament in 2014, and has worked for greater recognition of these crimes ever since.

However, more work needs to be done to secure greater recognition and accountability for the crimes committed against the Yazidis. This stakeholder conference aims to address this main challenge and to provide a platform for policymakers and practitioners to share ideas and experiences on how work in this area may be taken forward.

Download the conference programme

For more information about the conference, please contact Dr Aldo Zammit Borda:


Some of the key speakers will include:

The Hon Vian Dakhil Saeed, Former Member of the Iraqi Parliament and Chairperson of the Sinjar Foundation for Human Development
Dakhil gained international attention during a plea for assistance for Yazidi people trapped in the Sinjar Mountains during Islamic State capture of Sinjar, accusing Daesh of genocide against the Yazidi people. For her advocacy work in this area, Dakhil was awarded the title of the Woman of the Year in 2014. She is the Winner of the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award for her 'courage to become the voice of the Yazidi community and by her determination to campaign for the protection of all Yazidi and other Iraqi women under ISIS, despite the danger she is facing as a Yazidi woman politician opposed to ISIS'. She was crowned Woman of the Year in 2015 with an honorary prize for Arabic achievements in Dubai. She received the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services to Human Rights in Vienna, and the Nineveh honorary shield in June 2015. In February 2016 Dakhil was awarded the Geneva Summit Prize for Human Rights in Geneva.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Member of the UK House of Lords
Baroness Nicholson is the founder and chairperson of the AMAR foundation. She started AMAR in 1991 in response to Saddam Hussein’s systematic persecution and extermination of the Marsh Arabs, and it has now grown to become one of the leading charities in the Middle East. Baroness Nicholson is a member of Britain’s Upper Chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, and has recently been appointed as the Chairman of the House of Lords Sexual Violence in Conflict Committee. She chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs and was a member of the influential ad-hoc Soft Power Committee. She has taken part in many election observer missions to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Russia, Moldova, Kenya and Zambia, and was Chief International Observer twice in Yemen and Armenia. She was a member of the European Parliament for ten years, and served as Vice President of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Defence, and Security Policy. She also served as a Rapporteur for Iraq, Kashmir, and Romania. She continues to serve on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and is the former chairman of the Interparliamentary Standing Delegation between the European Parliament and Iraq.

Ms Michelle Jarvis, Deputy Head of the United Nations International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (Syria)
Ms Jarvis has worked in the international criminal justice field for 19 years and is presently Deputy Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (Syria), having taken up the post in December 2017. Prior to that she was the Deputy to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), where she had oversight of legal issues across the Office of the Prosecutor. Prior to her work in international criminal law, Ms Jarvis was a litigator in Australia, where her roles included improving women’s access to justice. Ms  Jarvis has lectured and trained widely on issues concerning international criminal law, including for Justice Rapid Response, the Nuremberg Principles Academy, the Salzburg Summer School and the Strathmore Institute for Advanced Studies in International Criminal Justice. She brings extensive expertise on issues concerning gender and armed conflict, having co-authored two books and numerous articles on the subject. She initiated and was the inaugural Coordinator of the Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Network, set up within the International Association of Prosecutors, and is presently a member of the Network’s Advisory Council. She is also an Advisory Board member of the Center for Climate Crime Analysis.

Mr Mirza Dinnayi, 2019 Laureate of Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and Founder & Head of Luftbrücke Irak – Air Bridge Iraq
Mr Dinnayi is a human rights activist, founder of the Germany-based NGO Air Bridge Iraq and Head of Yezidi Relief Fund to support vulnerable women, children and terror victims. He is a former advisor to the Iraqi President for the Affairs of Non-Muslim Minorities and recently KRG Advisor for the Disputed Areas. Mr Dinnayi is an expert in Iraqi minority affairs. He is a laureate of the Golden Stauffer-Medaille 2016, the highest award for extraordinary engagements, granted by the Prime Minister of State Baden-Württemberg.

Dr Michael Blume, Head, Special Quota Project, State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Between March 2015 and January 2016, the Special Quota Project team were able to evacuate 1,000 women and children from Kurdistan Iraq to the state of Baden-Württemberg, and 100 more were brought to two other German states, Niedersachsen and Schleswig-Holstein.

Dr Aldo Zammit Borda, Senior Lecturer in Public International Law, ARU
Dr Zammit Borda is a former Maltese diplomat who specialises in public international law, international criminal law and counter-terrorism. He has published extensively in this area. Since 2015, he has worked closely with the Sinjar Foundation for Human Development, and its chairperson, the Hon Vian Dakhil, to raise greater awareness of the crimes suffered by the Yazidis. His research on this subject, published in the Human Rights Law Review (Oxford University Press) has enabled the Hon Dakhil to make the legal case and to galvanise support for the recognition of genocide in her meetings with members of the UK Parliament, the UN Human Rights Council and in global media interviews. This resulted in the recognition of genocide against the Yazidis by these institutions.

Mr Ryan Xavier D’Souza, YAZDA and Visiting Fellow Oxford University
Mr Xavier D'Souza has been working on human rights advocacy and genocide prevention for the past ten years. He has worked in the UK Parliament and for the United Nations. Before joining the United Nations peace operation in Somalia, he led advocacy and policy at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, a New York-based human rights organisation. During this time he supported efforts by Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Laureate, and Amal Clooney to mobilise the UN Security Council to establish an Investigative Team that will support domestic efforts to hold ISIS accountable for the genocide in northern Iraq. He is currently a visiting scholar with the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

More information

For more information about this stakeholder conference, please contact Dr Aldo Zammit Borda:

Download the conference programme