On Tuesday, 17 March 2015, a panel discussion concerning the topic “Revisiting, Recognizing and Preventing Genocide: Past and Present in Kurdistan-Iraq” took place at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. The discussion was organized by the KRG-Representation in Austria on the occasion of the commemoration of the gas attacks on the Kurdish-Iraqi city Halabja, 27 years ago.
The discussion was led by four experts:
• The journalist Michael Wrase reported on his visit to Halabja the day after the gas attack and described his personal impressions and emotions. He then explained the geopolitical situation of the time and emphasized how important a timely international intervention would have been for the Kurds in Iraq. Finally, he compared the current “Shock and Awe”-tactics of the IS with those of Saddam Hussein. It is the aim of these tactics to keep resistance at a minimum, by using terror and brutal violence: “Massacres were used in Halabja as strategies of war and are now being used by the IS through beheadings and incinerations”, said the journalist.
• The chairwoman of the Yezidi association “Mala Ezidiya” in Austria, Sundus Al-Najar, explained the religious background of the Yezidi to the interested audience and discussed the current situation in Iraq, where countless members of her religion are being persecuted, enslaved and killed by IS. Furthermore, she expressed her hopes concerning the possibility of a return of the refugees to their homes and insisted on the necessity of international help, to bring back peace to the region.
• The two jurists Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hannes Tretter, who is a professor at the Research Centre Human Rights of the University of Vienna as well as the scientific director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights, and candidate judge MMag. Magdalena Pampalk explained the definition of genocide in international law and compared the criteria with current crimes committed by the IS. Additionally, MMag. Pampalk discussed the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its competences in the case of crimes against humanity and genocide.
Anna Giulia Fink, journalist for the foreign affairs department of the news magazine profil, moderated the discussion. The event was opened by Dr. Mustafa Ramazan, the representative of the Kurdish Regional Government-Iraq to Austria, who warmly welcomed all guests and cordially thanked the speakers and the moderator for their commitment.
Finally the audience had the chance to ask questions, which were answered by the discussants in great detail. The resulting conversations were continued at a reception after the official end of the event.