United States Secretary of State John Kerry today officially determined the Islamic State group (IS) is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups in Iraq and Syria. His statement meets a congressional deadline for a decision that was long expected. Though the declaration is not related to any obligation of the United States (US) to take further action against IS or to any prosecution against members of this group.
On 14 March, the US House of Representatives passed by 393 to 0 a non-binding resolution that declared that “the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”
“In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control” Kerry said. “Daesh is genocidal by self-acclimation, by ideology and by practice.” While the Secretary of State statement is an official recognition by the US of the crimes endured by minority groups in Iraq and Syria, only an independent international investigation could, according to Kerry, lead to potential criminal charges against IS members.
Representative Jeff Fortenberry, the author of the House bill, reacted to Kerry’s decision: “The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority. I sincerely hope that the genocide designation will raise international consciousness, end the scandal of silence, and create the preconditions for the protection and reintegration of these ancient faith communities into their ancestral homelands.”
Only Colin Powell had before qualified acts of genocide when Secretary of State. In 2004, he determined that atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region constituted genocide, after State Department lawyers advised him that it would not obligate the United States to act to stop it. Powell had then called the United Nations Security Council for the establishment of an international investigation commission.