[JURIST] US Secretary of State John Kerry [official profile] in a speech [text] at the State Department [official website] on Thursday declared that the Islamic State (IS) "is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims." Detailing the steps that the US has taken to halt the spread of the terrorist organization, Kerry explained the atrocities committed by IS, including the destruction of cultural heritage, rapes and kidnappings, and murder resulting in full-out genocide. He then urged the US to respond to the atrocities being committed through military force as well as the continuation of aid to the victims. He called for unity within the US and the affected nations. This was the first time [NPR report] the US declared genocide since the 2004 genocide in Darfur, though it is unclear how this will change national policy.
The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been accused of war crimes on a massive scale in Iraq and Syria. Earlier this week the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution [JURIST report] denouncing the actions of IS as "genocide" and calling for the establishment of international and domestic tribunals by UN member states. In December Amnesty International said that the Islamic State is in possession of a "large and lethal" arsenal [JURIST report] due to decades of reckless arms trading and the poorly regulated international flow of weapons into Iraq. In November IS claimed responsibility for a series of coordinated attacks in Paris [JURIST report] that killed more than 120 individuals. That same month President Barack Obama ordered [JURIST report] an assessment of whether intelligence reports from US Central Command were changed before formal submission to present a more optimistic picture of the American military campaign against the IS. In September members of Iraq's Yazidi community met with International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and urged the court to open a genocide investigation [JURIST report] into IS actions in Northern Iraq.