by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.
January 28, 2016
Yesterday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution calling the actions of ISIS in Iraq and Syria as “genocide.” The resolution, passed with 117 votes for and only 1 against, shows clear resolve on the part of our neighbors across the pond to call a spade a spade.
Several statements of the Parliamentary Assembly stand out:
The Parliamentary Assembly … notes with great concern that many of these recent terrorist attacks are claimed by, and may be attributed to, individuals who act in the name of the terrorist entity which calls itself Da’ish and who have perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law. States should act on the presumption that Da’ish commits genocide and should be aware that this entails action under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The Assembly recalls that under international law States have a positive obligation to prevent genocide, and thus should do their utmost to prevent their own nationals from taking part in such acts.
Fighters who may have perpetrated acts of genocide and/or other serious crimes prohibited under international law, and who seek international protection upon their return to Europe, should under no circumstances be granted refugee status.
While not specified in the resolution, the genocidal actions of ISIS have targeted Yezidis, Christians, and others. Such a clear statement that genocide has occurred, and a proper conclusion that this obligates nations which are parties to the Genocide Convention to do something about it, is a breath of fresh air.
Parliamentary Assembly member Pieter Omtzigt, who introduced the amendment to the resolution making it clear that ISIS has committed genocide, reiterated that “[u]nder the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, countries are obliged to take positive action to prevent crimes of genocide.”
Next week, the European Parliament will also weigh in on this issue and vote on a resolution on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. We hope its members follow the strong lead of this resolution and call the facts on the ground for what they are. The world depends on it.
We also hope that the Obama Administration recognizes this obvious fact as well, calling the genocide against Christians in the Middle East a “genocide,” and does so before it is too late. While the Administration has recognized actions of ISIS against Yezidis as “genocide,” it is wrong to not bring full attention to the genocide against Christians, and others, as well. Years from now, we may all rue the day when we could have done more to prevent another Rwanda.