Ahead of a St. Patrick’s Day deadline for the Obama administration to deliver to Congress an assessment of ISIS’ culpability in genocide, the House on Monday unanimously approved a resolution calling the murder of Christians and other religious minorities genocide.
The bill from Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) states that “the atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons are, and are hereby declared to be, ‘crimes against humanity’, and ‘genocide’.”
“Each of the Contracting Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed at Paris on December 9, 1948, and other international agreements forbidding war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly the governments of countries and their nationals who are in any way supporting these crimes, are reminded of their legal obligations under the Convention and these international agreements,” the resolution continues.
“Every government and multinational body should call the atrocities being committed in the name of religion by their rightful names: ‘crimes against humanity’, ‘war crimes’, and ‘genocide’.”
Another resolution from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) urges the president “to direct the United States representative to the United Nations to use the voice and vote of the United States to immediately promote the establishment of a Syrian war crimes tribunal, a regional or international hybrid court to prosecute the perpetrators of grave crimes committed by the Government of Syria, its allies, and other parties to the conflict.”
Three lawmakers voted against the resolution: Libertarian Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Tom Massie (R-Ky.), and Bernie Sanders supporter Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor that too often in history “the world was too afraid to see the truth” and millions perished as a result.
“What matters is that people were dying and the world didn’t notice. Evil does exist. But ignoring it or refusing to call it by its name does not make it go away,” McCarthy said. “ISIL is murdering Christians. They are targeting people who share my faith — the faith of many people in this House — people who believe in Jesus Christ. And because of that belief, they are being marked for execution. ISIL is murdering and enslaving religious and ethnic minorities everywhere they gain power, and we know it.”
“We know what they are doing, and if we don’t say it, we should be ashamed. ISIL is committing genocide. They are targeting non-Muslims — Christians, Yazidis, and more — and pushing them to extinction.”
But, McCarthy stressed, “we also can’t ignore what else is happening in Syria.”
“The Assad regime and its allies are indiscriminately killing on a breathtaking scale. Torture, rape, chemical weapons, barrel bombs, forced starvation. The Syrian regime is targeting civilians, and millions are suffering,” he said. “The world cannot look away. The Obama administration can’t dance around the question.”
State Department press secretary John Kirby was asked at Monday’s briefing about where the department is on deciding if it wants to call the targeted killing of non-Muslims by the Islamic State genocide.
“Well, first, off the bat, as you know, we remain appalled by the horrific acts of violence being committed by Daesh against people from a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups in Iraq and in Syria,” Kirby replied. “Regardless of whether their conduct satisfies certain legal definitions, including genocide and crimes against humanity, the United States has been clear that our interest in accountability for the perpetrators remains undiminished.”
“We abhor Daesh’s heinous acts and are taking direct action to end those atrocities and mitigate their impact through a coalition of some 66 nations across five different lines of effort. As they seek to destroy the diversity of the areas that they terrorize, the U.S. Government will continue to work to help prevent mass atrocities, particularly against vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities,” Kirby added. “As the Secretary has made clear in testimony himself, the Department of State continues to collect and evaluate all available information regarding these atrocities.”
The European Parliament has already declared that ISIS is committing genocide of religious minorities.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest would only say last week that “State Department attorneys understand how important this issue is.”
“These kinds of issues are quite serious, both from a moral perspective, but also from a policy perspective,” Earnest said. “…But when it comes to the kinds of steps that are necessary to try to protect religious minorities and ultimately to degrade and ultimately destroy a terrorist organization that targets religious minorities, I think the president’s willingness to use military force against those terrorists has been unsparing, and that will continue.”