Finally, in a unanimous decision on Monday in Capitol Hill and with a vote of 393 to 0, The United States House of Representative agree that the Islamic State group’s atrocities against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide.
According to the United Nations, genocide as defined in Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The decision to use the term genocide would raise new questions about which groups to help and what that help looks like. While it does open the door to seeing some members of the Islamic State group tried in the International Criminal Court it does not answer the deep divisions between US representatives regarding millions of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria.
According to several reports, a deadline was set on March 17 for the State Department to designate the Islamic State groups actions as genocide. This non-binding measure or in simple terms, a measure that is often used to express the body’s approval or disapproval of something that they cannot otherwise vote on, means that if the executive branch determines the legal definition of genocide as under international law further negotiation in the house would be filled with potential legal consequences and a legacy that states genocide happened on Obama’s watch in the Middle East.
If determined that the acts conducted by the Islamic State are officially genocide Obama will come under growing pressure to act more forcefully against the terrorist group. Placing the middle east as a higher priority for his administration, something Obama has worked hard to avoid. This would also give the Islamic State group a “high profile” appearance to US citizens making them look more prominent and threatening. However, terrorism on US soil has nothing to do with genocide in Iraq and Syria.
The House also on Monday passed an additional non-binding resolution in a vote of 392-3 that accuses Syrian President Bashar Assad and his main allies, Russia and Iran of, “gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity”. The resolution calls on President Barack Obama to support the formation by the United Nations of a war crimes tribunal to investigate and prosecute those responsible.