By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – Daesh is committing genocide in territories it controls in Iraq and Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.
“In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” he said. “Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions.”
Kerry’s declaration is the first time the U.S. has identified genocide since 2004 in Darfur.
The extremists are also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing targeting Kurds, Sunnis and other minorities, according to Kerry.
The announcement follows a congressionally mandated deadline for the State Department to determine whether Daesh has committed genocide.
Rights activists and lawmakers had urged the agency to declare that Daesh has carried out mass exterminations in the areas it seized.
The House of Representatives earlier this week voted 393-0 to condemn the atrocities as genocide. After seizing wide areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Daesh is responsible for the mass slaughter of Yazidis, a religious minority group, atop Iraq’s Mt. Sinjar — prompting U.S. intervention to stop the killings.
The group has since continued to target religious and ethnic minorities while forcing women it captures into sexual slavery.
But stressing that he is “neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury”, Kerry said that ultimately an independent investigation will decide the “formal legal determination”.
“The United States will strongly support efforts to collect, document, preserve, and analyze the evidence of atrocities, and we will do all we can to see that the perpetrators are held accountable,” he said.
“I hope that my statement today will assure the victims of Daesh’s atrocities that the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes that have been committed against them,” said Kerry. “What Daesh wants to erase, we must preserve,” he added.