U.S. Secretary of state John Kerry has declared that the Islamic State is comitting genocide against religious and minority groups in Iraq and Syria.
Using the the group’s Arabic acronym “Daesh,” Kerry made the declaration this morning, a day after the State Department said he would miss a congressional deadline to decide whether ISIS’ crimes met the definition.
“My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does. Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”
Kerry made the announcement while acknowledging fighting on the ground has made it impossible for the U.S. to get a complete picture of what is happening.
But he says the U.S. has enough documentation from the State Department, intelligence agencies, and outside groups to be confident – outlining mass murders in Kocho, Mosul, and Mount Sinjar, enslavement and rape being used as a tool of genocide, and targeting based on religion.
“The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia.”
Kerry added that he was “neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury,” and that ISIS’ crimes need to be independently investigated and brought to trial, and effort he says the U.S. will support.
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives also voted 393-0 to call the Islamic State’s crimes genocide.
However, the declarations may be more symbolic than anything.
The 1948 UN Convention on the prevention and punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which the U.S. is signatory, does require countries to “undertake to prevent and to punish,” the act.
However it does not outright call for military intervention.
Canada has faced pressure from several groups to apply the term to ISIS, but as of yet has not used the language.