U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently accused ISIS of committing genocide against certain ethnic and religious groups in Iraq and Syria.
As an official proclamation from the U.S. State Department, the statement carries a lot of weight and actually represents a change in U.S. policy. That's because the term "genocide" has a very specific connotation in the international arena. Laura Ling breaks down the significance in today's Seeker Daily report.
In 1948, the United Nations officially defined the term "genocide" as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted in response to the Holocaust during World War II, and the earlier Armenian Genocide of World War I.
The Convention originally included the phrase "political groups" as well, but that was later removed when the Soviet Union objected. The systematic killing of large groups in the pursuit of political goals is now officially termed a "crime against humanity." That label also applies in cases of mass slavery, deportation, torture, rape, apartheid, and other crimes.
RELATED: The Controversy Over The Armenian Genocide
An official accusation of genocide is designed to spur the international community into immediate action. At least, that's what Secretary of State Kerry is hoping. His proclamation is only the second time that the U.S. has designated acts of genocide during a conflict. The first was the 2004 genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
"My purpose here today is to assert, in my judgment, [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims," he said at a State Department news conference.
The State Department cited evidence that ISIS is targeting minority groups in Iraq and Syria in a deliberate effort to wipe them out. The campaign against Yazidis has been particularly brutal. In August 2014, ISIS members stormed the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, murdering around 3,000 men and older women and taking thousands of women and girls into sexual slavery.
By officially condemning ISIS actions as genocide, the U.S. is hoping to strengthen support for coalition forces and spur the international community into taking stronger action in Iraq and Syria. The good news is that there's been some recent progress: Just last week, the United Nations followed the U.S. lead, accusing the Islamic State of genocide against the Yazidis.
-- Glenn McDonald
Newsweek: ISIS Is Committing Genocide Against Yazidis, Christians And Shiites: John Kerry
The Atlantic: What's the Difference Between 'Crimes Against Humanity' and 'Genocide?'
The Economist: Was it genocide?
United Nations: War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide