The US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that ISIS’s atrocities should be classed as genocide.
His declaration opens the way to much greater involvement from America and other countries in protecting ISIS’s victims and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
In a statement, Kerry said: ‘In my judgment, Daesh [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.
“Daesh is genocidal by self-declaration, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.”
Kerry said that it was difficult to build “a complete record” of ISIS’s crimes. But “over the past months, we have conducted a review of the vast amount of intelligence gathered.”
Based on reports of ISIS’s atrocities, including the trapping of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar and the execution of Christians in Mosul and elsewhere, Kerry said he believed ISIS was guilty of genocide – which is defined in international law as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
Kerry said ISIS’s crimes meet that definition.
Although the new designation does not trigger any automatic response, Kerry said that the US would continue its “comprehensive approach” to defeating the terrorist group.
He concluded: “Naming these crimes is important but what is essential is to stop them.”
Although Kerry did not mention this possibility, it may also increase the likelihood that the US will open its borders to those fleeing genocide.
It may also lead to efforts to bring ISIS leaders to justice, possibly through the US tabling a UN resolution to involve the International Criminal Court.
The decision will increase the pressure on Britain to make a similar declaration. A House of Lords vote on Monday could be the first step towards the UK government accepting the term “genocide”, but the government is currently opposing it.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, who has urged British Prime Minister David Cameron to recognise ISIS atrocities as genocide, said: “At last the US Administration has woken up to the targeted mass murder of these defenceless people. What has to happen for the UK Government do the same? They’ve been in a state of complete denial. They should take a lead and table a Resolution at the Security Council demanding that signatories to the Genocide Convention accept their double duty to protect and to punish.”
Kerry’s statement may have been influenced by Monday’s House of Representatives vote, in which a motion to declare ISIS’s crimes genocide was unanimously voted through by 383 votes to 0.