FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 17, 2016
[WASHINGTON, DC]– This morning, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Daesh is committing genocide against ethnic minorities, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. This is the first genocide the US has recognized since Darfur in 2004.
Kerry was clear in laying out the crimes of Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and said, “Daesh captured and enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls—selling them at auction, raping them at will, and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations.”
This recognition of genocide is an important step for the US in taking global leadership to address atrocities by Daesh as well as in fulfilling its duties under the Genocide Convention to ensure that genocide is prevented, suppressed, and punished. As the State Department recognized during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, using the word “genocide” evokes the US’s obligations under the Genocide Convention.
In December 2015, the Global Justice Center (GJC), in a filing to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), urged the ICC to investigate Daesh’s crimes against the Yazidis as genocide. In particular, GJC asked the ICC to investigate the non-killing crimes of genocide committed against women and girls, which include forcible transfer of children, rape, torture, forced marriage, forced impregnation, and forced abortions.
“I am neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury with respect to the allegations of genocide,” Secretary Kerry said. “Ultimately, the full facts must be brought to light by an independent investigation and through formal legal determination made by a competent court or tribunal. But the United States will strongly support efforts to collect, document, preserve, and analyze the evidence of atrocities, and we will do all we can to see that the perpetrators are held accountable.”
Secretary Kerry’s remarks come on the heels of the historic resolution passed by the European Parliament in February, which determined that Daesh is committing genocide against religious minorities. The GJC has been calling on states and international organizations to: (1) recognize that genocide is happening; (2) take steps to prevent further genocide and suppress ongoing genocide, including by rescuing women and girls; and (3) investigate and punish genocide, including by supporting prosecutions at the ICC.
“Global consensus is building,” says GJC President Janet Benshoof, “Secretary Kerry’s statement today is a huge step forward for the global community to take action and address the genocide that Daesh is committing. The US must turn this rhetoric into action. The US should push for a referral to the ICC to hold Daesh accountable and take immediate steps to rescue the thousands of Yazidi women and girls still enduring genocide in captivity. We must do everything we can to ensure these woman and girls obtain the justice they deserve.”
“What Daesh wants to erase, we must preserve,” Kerry concluded. “Naming these crimes is important. But what is essential is to stop them.”
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