Secretary of State John Kerry announced on March 17 that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq.
“In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control,” Kerry said using another name for ISIS.
Although the announcement was long-awaited by congress and human rights groups, it does not obligate the United States to take more action on the terrorist organization, and does not prejudge any prosecution on ISIS members.
Kerry’s statement meets the deadline congress set for the State Department to formally decide whether it would recognize ISIS’s actions as genocide.
On March 14, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 393-0 that ISIS is responsible for genocide.
— Department of State (@StateDept) March 17, 2016
“Daesh is genocidal by self proclamation, by ideology and by actions,” said Kerry at the State Department.
“We must recognize what Daesh is doing to its victims,” he added.
Kerry also listed the abuses in part of ISIS that led to his determination.
“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,” he said.
Kerry said he hoped that the religious groups he mentioned as being victimized realize that the “the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes committed against them.”
“One element of genocide is the intent to destroy an ethnic or religious group, in whole or in part,” Kerry said.
“The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yezidis because they are Yezidis; Shia because they are Shia… Its entire worldview is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology,” he continued.
Kerry’s decision was applauded by U.S. officials.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) praised Kerry’s announcement.
“The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority,” Fortenberry said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
The last time the United States declared genocide was in 2004, when then Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.