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The Legality of Refusing to Assist Oppressed Groups

The Legality of Refusing to Assist Oppressed Groups

There is often a great deal of information available about injustices done against groups that are in dire need of assistance. Most of these ethnic minorities are known to be in a predicament by the international community. The starkest failure after the lessons of the Second World War and atrocities in the Balkans was the incapacity of the international community to take actions to prevent a modern genocide in Rwanda.

With further atrocities taking place in Iraq and Syria, the international community must stop the oppression against certain groups. Indeed, the lesson of Rwanda has been almost entirely ignored in 2015. Political leaders actively obscure discussions on genocide and media coverage does little to prevent another humanitarian disaster. A defined obligation is required to cut through the rhetoric.

Not assisting those in need is not considered a crime in most legal traditions. It would be difficult to prove that an individual was aware of the need and level of care required in order to successfully help a victim. In the event that members of the international community would be legally obligated to help, there must be some definition of who would be deserving of such assistance.

The group in need first has to be known to be in a situation where a possible genocide may take place. The international community, once aware of the threat, must be shown that assistance can be provided to the group in need. Finally, the capability must exist for that assistance to be successfully administered by the international community. While many regulations and laws exist to prevent genocide in modern times, there has been a lack of humanity and legislation used to save minority groups in Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish forces have often been alone fighting for the liberation of many minority groups in Iraq and Syria. The severe lack of support by Western allies and the Iraqi government  has allowed for a well-known genocide to take place in the region. Assistance to Kurdish forces has been requested openly for an extensive period of time with little assistance coming with the condemnation of atrocities.

Small militias have been assisting Kurdish forces while Western powers and the Iraqi Army lag behind. With knowledge of the situation, and the ability to help, the success that could take place in the fight against genocide in the region is shown by the Kurds themselves. Their small, badly equipped forces are losing soldiers and civilians are being murdered while world leaders continue to bicker. The international community should be liable for its lack of support and the deaths of innocent civilians.

The Yazidi question is one for the international community, as their extinction would be eminent without the assistance of Kurdish forces. The current debate on which American President or Presidential candidate has encouraged ISIS more does nothing to stop a genocide. The entire world  has knowledge of men, women, and many children being subject to rape, torture and death. Some groups have been successful in rescuing girls and women from ISIS who were previously taken as slaves.

To stop this atrocity, the international community is capable of taking action beyond using planes or placing climate issues above the lives of many communities that have existed for centuries. Rwanda should be taken as a reminder to Never Forget, yet again. If humanity as a whole can clearly state that genocide should be stopped without fail, without red tape, qualifications or justifications, then there would be no need for a legal obligation to act in the advent of a genocide. Rwanda’s genocide is taking place again, but in Iraq and Syria.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration