US Secretary of State John Kerry is accusing Islamic State of systematic killing of Christians, Yazidis and Shi’ite Muslims, calling it “genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions”.
“In my judgment, Daesh [Islamic State] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shi’ite Muslims,” Kerry said.
The finding is expected to bring more resources to help groups fighting the militants but does not change US military strategy or legal obligations, Reuters reports.
Republicans, who control the US Congress, have been pressing the Democratic administration to call the militants’ atrocities in Iraq and Syria genocide.
The House of Representatives on Monday passed a non-binding resolution 393-0 labeling them as such.
US officials hope the determination will help them win political and budget support from Congress and other nations to help the targeted groups return home if and when Islamic State-controlled areas such as the Iraqi city of Mosul are liberated, Reuters reports.
While the genocide finding may make it easier for Washington to argue for greater action against the group, US officials said it does not create a US legal obligation to do more, and would not change US military strategy toward the militants.
“Acknowledging that genocide or crimes against humanity have taken place in another country would not necessarily result in any particular legal obligation for the United States,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
US President Barack Obama ordered air strikes against the group starting in 2014 but has made clear he wishes to avoid any large commitment of U.S. ground troops.
Unlike in Rwanda in 1994 and Darfur in 2004, where the United States found that genocide had taken place but did not use military force to stop it, US officials noted they began air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq in August 2014 in part to save the Yazidi minority group from targeted attack.
“We didn’t act in Rwanda. We looked back and regretted it. We didn’t act militarily in Darfur. In this case within … days of the Yazidis being targeted by Daesh in Iraq, American planes were in the air trying to help them,” said a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Islamic State militants have swept through Iraq and Syria in recent years, seizing swathes of territory with an eye toward establishing jihadism in the heart of the Arab world.
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