On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry held a press conference about the House of Representatives’ unanimously passed decision on ISIS. Earlier this week, the House declared (by a 393-0 vote) the Islamic State’s atrocities against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities to be “genocide.” This seemingly simple declaration has taken years to achieve, long after the United States launched its first 2014 air strikes against ISIS militants in Iraq. At the time, Kerry did so under the justification that the group demonstrated “all the warning signs of genocide.” Kerry had also warned reporters in Afghanistan of the “cold blooded executions” taking place in Iraq.
Once the House delivered their decision, Kerry took some time to consider a declaration, partially because genocide is a more-than-serious word to level. America last dropped the term in 2004 when Colin Powell leveled blame on the Sudanese government for the horrors taking place in its Darfur region. Kerry also considered legal ramifications based upon the 1948 Convention on Genocide, which has been interpreted by some scholars to mean that “only states can commit these crimes.” ISIS does not fit that requirement, so Kerry consulted with legal experts before dropping the declaration, and he used the descriptor that ISIS hates, Daesh:
“My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, in what believes and in what it does … Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other minorities. I say this even though the ongoing conflict and lack of access to key areas has made it impossible to develop a fully detailed and comprehensive picture of all that Daesh is doing and all that it has done.”
Kerry expressed the hope that this declaration will send a message to ISIS victims — which range from the families of those who have been killed to women who are bought and sold as sex slaves — that they have the United States’ full support. Going forward, this declaration will grant the United States greater tools to pursue the terrorist organization and, ideally, soften certain politicians’ sentiments against welcoming Syrian refugees through American borders.