WASHINGTON: The United States declared Thursday that the Islamic State group’s slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and Shiites in Iraq and Syria amounts to a genocide and vowed to halt it.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s “moral statement” does not place the United States under any new legal obligations, but the White House said it could back an international investigation.
“The United States will cooperate with independent efforts to investigate genocide,” President Barack Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Washington does not recognize the International Criminal Court, but officials said US agencies will collect evidence and work with international partners as states seek a way to bring justice to bear.
“Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, what it believes and what it does,” Kerry said, using a term for the IS group based on its Arabic acronym.
“Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups,” he added.
The Islamic State group recruits Sunni extremists and has regularly carried out mass killings of Shiite Muslim, Christian and Yazidi prisoners.
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.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which memorializes past genocides and campaigns against bigotry, welcomed the decision to name Christians and Yazidis as victims.
“We reiterate our call that the US put these two groups at the front of the line for consideration for immigration to our country,” it said.
A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the genocide ruling would not itself change the rules for granting refugee status.
But he insisted Syrian asylum seekers are already being considering sympathetically because the IS group’s atrocities are long-known.