Next Steps for Addressing ISIS Genocide

On March 17, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had committed genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria. The State Department’s decision to label ISIS acts as genocide came on the heels of a “sense of Congress” resolution, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives March 14, which stipulated that the State Department had until March 17 to acknowledge ISIS acts as genocide. While the designation is a commendable first step, it must be followed by action.

The United Nations Genocide Convention, to which the U.S. is a signatory, details that signatories have a duty to prevent and punish genocide. However, the convention is vague with respect to the legal or obligatory next steps that follow the invocation of genocide. The U.S. should therefore prioritize the safety and protection of the victims of genocide by evaluating and considering the use of the military, legal, and refugee-related capabilities that it possesses to prevent and punish genocide.

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