- Terror group has targeted Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims
- The group is `genocidal by self-proclamation,' Kerry says
Islamic State has committed genocide, and the U.S. will support efforts to build a case for international prosecutions against the terrorist group, Secretary of State John Kerry said.
The Islamic State is “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions in what it says, what it believes and what it does,” Kerry told reporters at the State Department on Thursday. The group is “responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.”
Kerry’s announcement was largely symbolic, as he acknowledged. “I am neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury,” he said, and genocide allegations would have to be pursued “by an independent investigation and through formal legal determination made by a competent court or tribunal.”
But he was under pressure from lawmakers to make the finding, which came on a deadline Congress had given President Barack Obama’s administration to determine whether genocide has taken place in areas controlled by Islamic State. Though it was also part of Congress’s mandate, Kerry didn’t address whether genocide is taking place against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.
Since emerging from the turmoil of conflicts in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has expanded into Libya, bolstered terrorist groups in Africa and inspired attacks from Paris to California. The group is still subject to attacks by Russian, U.S. and Syrian-led forces in Syria under a partial cease-fire agreement worked out last month.
Kerry said Islamic State trapped Yazidis in northern Syria, killing them and enslaving thousands of women and girls, “selling them at auction, raping them at will and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations.”
This is the first time that the U.S has supported a genocide designation since a crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan in 2004.
“Secretary Kerry is finally making the right call,” Republican Representative Ed Royce of California, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Christian and Yazidi communities are deliberately targeted for elimination in ISIS’s self-declared caliphate.”
A finding of genocide does not impose obligations on the U.S. The United Nations Security Council last found Serbia to be guilty of genocide in 2007 for failing to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.