Washington: The Islamic State group has regularly carried out mass killings of Shiite Muslims, Christians and Yazidis. In June 2014 it seized the formerly cosmopolitan city of Mosul in northern Iraq, placing whole communities under threat of murder, rape or enslavement. Reuters file photo
The US declared today that the Islamic State group’s slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and Shiites amounts to a genocide and vowed to halt it.
Secretary of State John Kerry made the proclamation after Congress demanded Washington recognise that the group seeks to exterminate religious minorities.
“Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, what it believes and what it does,” Kerry declared.
“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 added.
The Islamic State group has regularly carried out mass killings of Shiite Muslims, Christians and Yazidis. In June 2014 it seized the formerly cosmopolitan city of Mosul in northern Iraq, placing whole communities under threat of murder, rape or enslavement.
Already in March last year, UN investigators warned the self-proclaimed caliphate was trying to wipe out Yazidis, members of a pre-Islamic religious minority. While genocide is a crime under international law, US officials say Kerry’s ruling does not put Washington under any more legal obligation to act.
Instead, they argue, the United States is already doing its utmost to halt the slaughter by leading a 66-nation coalition to “degrade and destroy” the group.
Kerry said the facts must one day be brought before an international tribunal, and that the United States would do all it could to support an investigation and prosecution.
He said that through air strikes and support for local forces, the coalition has pushed IS fighters from 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria.
“We’ve degraded their leadership, attacked their revenue sources and disrupted their supply lines, and currently we are engaged in a diplomatic initiative aimed at trying to end the war in Syria,” he said.
Kerry argues Bashar al-Assad’s brutal campaign to cling to power in Syria fuels the chaos that allowed the IS group to seize the east of his country.
He vowed to continue pressing for a negotiated settlement to the broader civil war to allow local forces and the international coalition to focus its fire on the extremist threat.
“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 Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” he said.
“For those communities the stakes in this campaign are utterly existential,” he said. “So we must bear in mind after all that the best response to genocide is a reaffirmation of the fundamental right to survive.”