The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution declaring that systemic violence committed by ISIS against Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide.
House Concurrent Resolution 75, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of California passed by a 393-to-0 vote yesterday, and declares that “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.’”
It also calls on the UN to call the atrocities a genocide, and calls on UN member states to establish “international tribunals to punish those responsible for the ongoing crimes.”
“ISIL is murdering and enslaving religious and ethnic minorities everywhere they gain power, and we know it” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told the press, according to Politico. “We know what they are doing, and if we don’t say it, we should be ashamed. ISIL is committing genocide.”
He also urged the Obama administration to make a similar declaration of genocide.
The vote on the resolution comes in the same week as a deadline, set last year by Congress, for Secretary of State John Kerry to make a decision on whether it will declare ISIS atrocities in Iraq and Syria to constitute genocide.
Since the summer of 2015, when rumors began to circulate that the US administration was planning to recognize the genocide of Yazidis but not to include Christians in the designation, there have been a number of attempts from NGOs and other groups to encourage the recognition of a genocide against Christians also.
Simultaneously, there has been legislation passed elsewhere internationally, such as in the EU Parliament, which passed a resolution recognizing a genocide against Christians and other religious minorities and calling on the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIS violations.
The push for a ‘genocide’ designation comes because of a perceived lack of action on the part of the US and the international community, and because such a designation holds legal and moral weight, as seen with past conflicts such as Darfur.
Rep. Fortenberry spoke yesterday, saying that “A genocide designation will raise international consciousness and compel the international community of responsible nations to act.”
The resolution is a ‘concurrent resolution’, meaning that it will be voted on in both houses of Congress.
Even if it’s also passed in the Senate, it will not hold the full force of law as with a congressional bill. Nevertheless, it is seen as a strong statement of policy from both sides of the aisle and puts pressure on the State Department to follow the vote with a parallel declaration of genocide and further action.