21 March 2016
The Australian Coptic Movement Association notes and commends the Secretary of State of the United States of America’s long overdue assessment, among other things, that Daesh (aka ISIL, ISIS, IS and Islamic State) is responsible for genocide against groups under its control, including Christians. The Secretary of State also referred to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at Christians as well as other groups.
Secretary Kerry’s assessment followed the unanimous passing of a US Congress motion on 15 March 2016 that expressed concern over atrocities committed by ISIL against religious and ethnic minorities. The motion H. Con. Res. 75 was introduced by Republican Congressman Representative Jeff Fortenberry and passed the house 393-0.
The Motion was titled ‘Expressing the sense of Congress that those who commit or support atrocities against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities and who target them specifically for ethnic or religious reasons, are committing, and are hereby declared to be committing, “war crimes”, “crimes against humanity”, and “genocide”.’
In making his assessment, the Secretary of State referred to the fact that Daesh “has executed Christians solely because of their faith; that it executed 49 Coptic and Ethiopian Christians in Libya; and that it has also forced Christian women and girls into sexual slavery.” He also stated that “Daesh has made a systematic effort to destroy the cultural heritage of ancient communities – destroying Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches; blowing up monasteries and the tombs of prophets; desecrating cemeteries; and in Palmyra, even beheading the 83-year-old scholar who had spent a lifetime preserving antiquities there”. He has recognized that Daesh has threatened Christians by saying that it will, quote, “conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.” Critically, he stated that Daesh kills Christians “because they are Christians”, The Secretary of State also referred to other situations exemplifying the despicable treatment of other groups by Daesh.
This recent statement by America’s most senior diplomat is a consequential, important and crucial development. Genocide and crimes against humanity are clear violations of fundamental and overriding principles of international law. Violation of jus cogens necessitates an immediate and purposeful response in order to end the perpetration of abhorrent, inhumane and reprehensible crimes. With the world’s most powerful and influential nation effectively declaring that ethno-religious minorities in Daseh controlled areas face annihilation, it is incumbent upon the international community to react swiftly. As the Secretary poignantly remarked: “What Daesh wants to erase, we must preserve”. A delayed response will have monumental repercussions for these imperiled communities. History will judge the world harshly for any reticence to act.
In making this statement, the Secretary observed he hoped he assured “he victims of Daesh’s atrocities that the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes that have been committed against them.” He stated that “his determination to act against genocide, against ethnic cleansing, against the other crimes against humanity must be pronounced among decent people all across the globe.”
The Australian Coptic Movement Association respectfully urges the Turnbull Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Australian Parliament to release a similar statement to acknowledge the genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing of ethno-religious minorities by Daesh. We also consider that the Secretary’s recognition of which groups face the brunt of the acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity by Daesh should be factored into the Australian government’s assessment of which groups should be given priority in terms of refugee resettlement; particularly those ethno-religious communities that have no realistic or plausible nearby alternative place of permanent resettlement.
We also request that safe havens or autonomous regions be set aside for the Levant’s indigenous Assyrian community to restore their nation and avoid total annihilation.
We encourage the Australian Government to play a leading role in implementing the Genocide convention as enforced since 1951 to ensure that those who have participated in massacres, rape and enslavement from Northern Iraq/Syria to North Africa and beyond are brought to justice before tribunals.
The Australian Coptic Movement Association
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