Last week, I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment to mark Holocaust Day on January 27 – the day, in 1945, that the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated.
It’s important that we take time to remember those who died during the Holocaust and other genocides, as well as to remind ourselves of the horrors man is capable of if we are not vigilant against prejudice, intolerance and oppression.
As we reflect on the atrocities committed in the past, we are confronted by evidence that over the past three years 11,000 Syrians detained by Assad’s regime have been systematically tortured and killed. The photographs accompanying the report published by the Guardian are truly horrifying.
They show the mutilated bodies of victims who have been beaten, burned, strangled and starved. The three war crimes prosecutors who compiled the report are clear that this evidence “would support findings of crimes against humanity against the current Syrian regime”, and possibly war crimes too.
I hope that the ‘Geneva II’ peace talks now under way can bring an end to the appalling violence, but there can be no lasting peace without justice.
At Prime Minister’s Questions I urged David Cameron to resist conceding any immunity from prosecution for such terrible crimes, so as not to muffle the deterrent of international law the next time a tyrant turns on his own people.
While the fighting does continue, we should also honour our humanitarian obligations to the Syrian people, especially the children. As I pointed out at International Development questions in the Commons, nearly one in five schools in Syria has been destroyed, damaged or used by the military.
I asked the Secretary of State to make sure that, at the talks in Geneva, the Government presses all parties to the conflict to end the use or targeting of schools and health facilities.
I also spoke in a Parliamentary debate about regulation of the pub industry, of which demands for reform have been led by the Campaign for Real Ale. Referring to the difficulties a publican in Melksham has had, I pointed out the shortcomings of the current system of self-regulation.
My next constituency surgeries are at Bradford on Avon Library on Saturday from 1pm to 2.30pm, then at The Pound Arts Centre, Corsham on Thursday, February 6 (4.30pm–6pm).