U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has determined that Islamic State (ISIS) action against Yazidis, Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide.
The announcement comes on the day of a Congressional-imposed deadline, specified in December’s Omnibus spending bill, for the State Department to make a determination that genocide has or has not occurred against these people groups.
In November, more than 20 human rights organizations, genocide scholars, and religious leaders wrote to President Obama imploring him and the U.S. Department of State to recognize that ISIS is committing genocide not just against Yazidis, but also against Christians, Shi’a Muslims, Turkmen, Shabaks and other religious groups that ISIS labels “infidels” or “apostates.”
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide prohibits the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic or religious group by, inter alia, killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.
Designation of a group as one targeted for genocide has significant policy implications for American refugee policy, because such victims would be given a rebuttable presumption that they have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their religious or ethnic identities.
IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:
“We commend Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama Administration for speaking the truth about the ISIS genocide. Preventing genocide is both a national security interest and moral responsibility of the United States, and with this genocide determination they have indicated an acknowledgment of that responsibility.
“My first thought is for our Christian brothers and sisters, including the courageous hero Fr. Douglas Bazi who recently testified before Congress. I thank God that this decision will give them hope and help them to feel less abandoned, and IRD commits to continuing to fight to ensure that the genocide determination results in actions to help these faithful followers of Jesus, as well as the Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims, Mandaeans, and all of those religious and ethnic minorities under siege by ISIS.
“It is critical that the presidential statement on the crimes against humanity against Middle Eastern Christians, Shia Muslims, Yazidis and other religious groups has been given the proper name, which is genocide.
“We at IRD are very pleased that the State Department has made a determination of genocide. Today we can be very proud that our nation continues its history of moral courage and compassion.”
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