EU joins voices labeling ISIS actions a 'genocide'

Jihad in Gaza Credit Zoriah via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA 5 20 15 Jihad in Gaza. | Zoriah via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The European Parliament on Thursday declared that genocide is taking place in the Middle East against Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities, at the hands of the Islamic State.

A resolution adopted by the parliament states that "so-called 'ISIS/Da'esh' commits genocide against Christians and Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities."

The vote followed last week's genocide resolution passed by the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe. That council is a leading human rights body and long-time partner with the European Union on human rights concerns.

A genocide declaration is significant because it calls for members of the United Nations Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court, which would officially investigate to see if genocide is taking place.

According to the U.N. Genocide Convention of 1948, genocide is defined as actions taken with the intent to "destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." Such actions could include murder, deprivation of vital resources like food and water, prevention of births, or "causing serious bodily or mental harm."

This genocide declaration by the European Union also puts pressure on other major world powers like the U.S. to issue a similar resolution.

Genocide resolutions have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate but have not yet passed. The U.S. State Department has been expected for months to issue a declaration that the Islamic State – also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Da'esh – is waging genocide, but it has been reported that the declaration would only list Yazidis as genocide victims.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan commission that makes recommendations to the State Department, has called for a designation of "Christian, Yazidi, Shi'a, Turkmen, and Shabak communities of Iraq and Syria as victims of genocide by ISIL."

"USCIRF also urges American and other world leaders to condemn the genocidal actions and crimes against humanity of ISIL that have been directed at these groups and other ethnic and religious groups," the statement continued.

The EU resolution also called for the creation of a "special EU representative for Freedom of Religion in the World." The move was praised by legal group ADF International as an important step toward promoting international religious liberty.

"We applaud the European Parliament for having responded to clear and compelling evidence that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East are victims of intentional destruction and genocide," stated Sophia Kuby, director of EU advocacy at ADF International.

"It was high time that the EU responded to the undeniable evidence of this genocide which includes assassinations of church leaders, torture, mass murders, kidnapping, sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian and Yazidi girls and women, destruction of churches, monasteries, and cemeteries."

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