Kerry determines IS group committing genocide in Iraq, Syria

The Obama administration on Thursday formally concluded the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, a declaration long sought by Congress and human rights organizations but likely to change little in the conflict against the extremists.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Thursday formally concluded the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, a declaration long sought by Congress and human rights organizations but likely to change little in the conflict against the extremists.

The determination, for which Congress had set a Thursday deadline, does not obligate the United States to take additional action against IS militants and does not prejudge any potential prosecution against its members.

Officials said the U.S. has already intensified its fight against IS and had effectively recognized the situation as a genocide more than a year ago when it agreed to increase the number of refugees, notably from Syria, that America accepts.

A day after the State Department said the administration would miss the deadline because it needed more evidence, Kerry said Thursday that he had completed his review after all and determined that Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups are victims of genocide and crimes against humanity by the Islamic State. The House earlier this week unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution condemning IS atrocities as genocide.

Kerry outlined a litany of atrocities that he said the militants had committed against people and religious sites, as well as threats to eradicate what it terms apostates and infidels. Using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, he said, “Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes and what it does.”

However, he added that he was “neither judge nor prosecutor nor jury with respect to the allegations” and said any potential criminal charges must result from an independent international investigation. Kerry said the U.S. would continue to support efforts to collect evidence and document atrocities.

While his determination does not carry such legal weight, Kerry said he hoped that groups he cited as being victimized would take some comfort in the fact that the “the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes committed against them.”

Lawmakers and others who have advocated for the finding had sharply criticized the State Department’s initial disclosure Wednesday that the deadline would be missed. U.S. officials said Kerry concluded his review just hours after that announcement and the criticism had not affected his decision.

On Thursday, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, the author of the House bill, commended Kerry’s decision.

“The United States has now spoken with clarity and moral authority,” Fortenberry, R-Neb., 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.”

Republican congressional leaders said President Barack Obama should use the declaration to strengthen what they consider an inadequate plan to defeat the Islamic State.

Kerry’s determination marks only the second time a U.S. administration has declared that a genocide was being committed during an ongoing conflict.

The first was in 2004, when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell determined that atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region constituted genocide. Powell reached that determination amid much lobbying from human rights groups, but only after State Department lawyers advised him that it would not — contrary to legal advice offered to previous administrations — obligate the United States to act to stop it.

In that case, the lawyers decided that the 1948 U.N. Convention against genocide did not require countries to prevent genocide from taking place outside their territory. Powell instead called for the U.N. Security Council to appoint a commission to investigate and take appropriate legal action if it agreed with the determination.

Kerry’s decision followed a similar finding.

Although the United States is involved in military strikes against IS and has helped prevent some incidents of ethnic cleansing, notably of Yazidis, some advocates have argued that a genocide determination would require additional U.S. action.

In making his decision, Kerry weighed whether the militants’ targeting of Christians and other minorities meets the definition of genocide, according to the U.N. Convention: “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

A recent report from the Knights of Columbus and In Defence of Christians identified by name more than 1,100 Christians who they said the Islamic State had killed. The report detailed numerous instances of people kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and driven from their homes, along with the destruction of churches.

The Knights of Columbus said Kerry’s decision was “correct and truly historic,” and In Defence of Christians, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Greek Orthodox Church and numerous other organizations, including the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum also welcomed the move.

Just Posted

Black Horse Singers performed for students at Ecole la Prairie on Monday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Students remind Red Deer that every child matters on National Indigenous Day

Heart-shaped messages to decorate trees at Ecole la Prairie through the summer

road consturction
Road closures at Red Deer hospital next week

Red Deer drivers are advised of road closures in the vicinity of… Continue reading

A gofundme account has been set up for Lilac the husky, of Blackfalds. (Photo from gofundme)
Dog ends up in coma after a walk in Blackfalds

Dog finds a baggie that likely contained drugs

A large number of supporters were out Saturday at a rally intended to bring awareness about including Hinduism in the grade 2 portion of the K-6 draft curriculum. As it stands now, Hinduism won’t be taught until grade 6 in the proposed draft curriculum. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Video: Rally to support adding Hinduism to draft curriculum draws crowd in Red Deer

The Hindu community in Red Deer came out in droves on Saturday… Continue reading

Inuk elder Reepa Evic-Carleton light a qulliq, a traditional oil lamp, at a public ceremony to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on the bank of the Ottawa River behind the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. on Thursday, June 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Singh blasts Liberal ‘hypocrisy’ on National Indigenous Peoples Day

OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he believes the Liberal government… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border measures start easing in July for fully vaccinated Canadians

OTTAWA — Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning to Canada will… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Canada to unveil travel rules for fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents

OTTAWA — Canada is set to detail what quarantine rules citizens and… Continue reading

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky poses for a photo in Toronto on Monday, October 17, 2016. Two of Canada’s most prominent athletes are part of the ownership group of a new Las Vegas National Lacrosse League franchise. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu
Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash join forces with Las Vegas lacrosse team

League’s 15th team will start play in the fall of 2022

Orlando City and Montreal Impact players take a knee before their MLS match, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
CF Montreal finds two new home venues as Gold Cup comes to Fort Lauderdale

Exploria Stadium has been Toronto FC’s home field this year

Police and firefighters respond after a truck drove into a crowd of people injuring them during The Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival in Wilton Manors, Fla., on Saturday, June 19, 2021. WPLG-TV reports that the driver of the truck was taken into custody. (Chris Day/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Officials say deadly Pride parade crash was not intentional

Driver and the victims were a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family

FILE - In this April 18, 2017, file photo, a conference worker passes a demo booth at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. Facebook is launching podcasts and live audio streams in the U.S. Monday, June 21, 2021, to keep users engaged on its platform and to compete with emerging rivals.(AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
Facebook launches podcasts, live audio service

Handful of podcasts will first be available to people in the U.S.

Intricate cloth masks with Indigenous design made by Teresa Snow. Facebook/ Masks4Maskwacis
‘Masks 4 Maskwacis’ wins Northern Lights Volunteer Award

The group received recognition for their efforts to support their community during COVID-19.

Most Read