Last year, former Secretary of State Kerry declared that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities, however the Administration fell short on necessary follow through. Today, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House panel on global human rights, urged the new Trump Administration to step in and close the gap created by its predecessor.
“Even after acknowledging the genocide, the previous Administration refused to support criminal investigations of perpetrators,” said Smith, author of the bipartisan Iraq and Syria Emergency Genocide Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390).“Staff from non-governmental organizations are risking their lives to conduct these investigations. Without our help, evidence that can be used in trials will be lost. Proving these perpetrators are criminals—murderers, child abusers, rapists, slavers, drug dealers and more—will support our efforts to combat support for terrorist groups like ISIS.”
Smith, along with Rep. Sean Duffy (WI-07), Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), today sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, requesting an update on actions the U.S. has taken to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators, urging the U.S. to take the lead on related efforts at the U.N. and emphasizing the need to seek justice for all the victims, including Christians. Click Here to Read the Letter.
“President Trump personally committed his Administration to confronting the genocide that ISIS has been committing against Christians and other religious minorities,” said Smith. “Only a few months ago, I met with Christian survivors in Iraq and saw that aid and action is needed, and needed right now. For the previous three years, the United States had abandoned these and the other survivors from religious and ethnic minorities. H.R. 390 is a blueprint for making sure these genocide victims finally get aid from the U.S. and perpetrators are punished.”
At the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump stated “We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians…All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. All nations have a duty to work together to confront it.”
Smith’s legislation, co-led by Eshoo, will direct the U.S. government to:
- Identify threats of persecution and other early warning indicators of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes against Iraqi and Syrian religious or ethnic minorities that ISIS targeted for these crimes, or against other religious or ethnic minorities that are persecuted.
- Provide humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery assistance to these communities, through entities that are effectively assisting them, including faith-based entities.
- Support criminal investigations of perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes in Iraq, specifically ones collecting evidence that can be used in criminal trials.
- Review U.S. relevant law and recommend how to close statutory gaps in being able to prosecute in the U.S. American citizens, or foreign nationals who come to the U.S., who have committed these crimes abroad.
The legislation is supported by more than 20 groups, including the Knights of Columbus, Family Research Council, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (Southern Baptist Convention), 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, In Defense of Christians, ADF International, Baylor University, Open Doors, Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Business Alliance, A Demand for Action, Yezidi Human Rights Organization International, Religious Freedom Institute, Center for Religious Freedom (Hudson Institute), Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Community of Sant’Egidio, International Christian Concern and the Religious Freedom Coalition.
It is also supported by all the former US Ambassadors-at Large for War Crimes, David Scheffer (1997-2001), Pierre Prosper (2001-2005), Clint Williamson (2006-2009) and Stephen Rapp (2009-2015), as well as the Founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, David Crane; Director of the Center for Religious Freedom Nina Shea; and the author of Defying ISIS, Rev. Johnnie Moore.
Smith added, “Any legitimate effort to prosecute ISIS for genocide must follow the evidence and include crimes against Christian victims. I urge the Administration to ensure that international prosecution initiatives recognize the genocide against Christians and thereby ensure justice for all victims.”
Smith has held nine related Congressional hearings since 2013 and last December led a mission to Erbil (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) at the invitation of the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, to see first-hand the plight of the 70,000 Christians – almost 1/3 of Christians remaining in Iraq – who escaped ISIS and have been sustained by the Archdiocese of Erbil with support from organizations like the Knights of Columbus and without any support so far from the U.S..
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