by Brian Pellot
Declaring ISIS’ actions genocide could open new doors to military, diplomatic and humanitarian intervention by the international community, intergovernmental organizations and individual countries. But it won’t be easy.
Despite a growing chorus of experts and advocates who believe that ISIS’ atrocities against Yazidis, Christians, Shia Muslims and other religious and ethnic groups amount to crimes against humanity and genocide, U.S. and U.N. officials appear reluctant to explicitly label the group’s actions as such.
President Obama has accused ISIS of having “threatened genocide,” and U.N. human rights investigators have said many violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIS “may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide.”
The most striking case experts cite is ISIS’ actions against the Yazidis (also called Yezidis and Ezidis), adherents of an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism. In August 2014, as many as 200,000 people, mostly Yazidis, were forced to flee their homes after ISIS seized large areas of northern Iraq.
“Only a judicial body with an appropriate mandate can make a legal determination” of genocide, said Adama Dieng, U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, in a statement. But “the international community cannot afford to wait until such a determination is made. We must take action to protect populations earlier, before situations deteriorate to the point where the window of opportunity closes and the options for action are fewer and more costly.”
Some critics say the U.S. and U.N. have been reluctant to explicitly label ISIS’ actions “genocide” because doing so would require greater action on their part to stop it...