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Outside the gates of the Dachau concentration camp, scripted on a memorial commemorating the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust, are the words "Never Again." Yet, modern history is haunted by acts of brutal violence from the mass killings in Kosovo, Cambodia, and Burundi to the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur. American leaders continue to vow "Never Again," yet repeatedly fail to stop genocide.
ISIS continues its rampage of beheadings, torture, sexual enslavement, mass rape, forced evictions, and other atrocities, intentionally targeting Christians and other religious minorities in the region. It's genocide. The Obama Administration has recognized this fact, and now it is time to take action to stop the genocide and protect Christians.
As we reported earlier this year:
"ISIS members have killed Yazidis and Christians by the thousands, have enslaved and raped thousands more because of their religion, and have destroyed their places of worship and their homes. ISIS intends to kill all Christians if they do not convert, pay jizya, or flee. This genocide and terror are leading to the violent suppression of the Christians from their region of origin."
With your support, the ACLJ was successful in our vigorous campaign to have the United States declare that ISIS's genocidal slaughter and abuse of Christians was, in fact, a "genocide against . . . Christians." This is a tremendous victory, however, securing the genocide declaration was just the first step. We must do more.
We have a moral duty to act, but we have a legal obligation to act as well.
We must honor our contractual commitments - commitments we made by ratifying the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide - to stop the genocide and protect the Christians and other religious minorities targeted by ISIS for systematic extermination.
But what, specifically, can our government do? What are our obligations? What diplomatic, legal, humanitarian, or even military avenues are available to stop the genocide and protect the victims?
Article I of the Genocide Convention establishes a duty for contracting states to "prevent and to punish" genocide. Article 8 articulates one of the mechanisms available to effectuate that duty: "Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action" as "appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide." Now that the United States has legally recognized the genocide, and thus implicated the Genocide Convention, we must urge all relevant officials and entities to act according to its terms. We ratified the Genocide Convention; now we must honor our word.
The ACLJ proposes the following 7-point strategy to carry out our moral and treaty-based obligations. Each of these policy proposals fall under two primary objectives: 1) stop the genocide and 2) protect Christians and other religious minorities.
First, call upon the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to formally recognize the genocide against Christians and demand that the U.N. as a whole do so as well - as have the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Holy See's representative at the U.N. in Geneva and Pope Francis, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has acknowledged the international community's duty to act stating, "To take one utterly shameful example, despite the horrific human rights violations in Syria that have been investigated, enumerated, discussed, we must continue to deplore the international community's failure to act."
The U.N. Secretary General has already recognized the international community's "responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect populations from genocide." So has the U.N. General Assembly. The U.N. must now recognize the ongoing ISIS atrocities as genocide against Christians and other religious minorities and act.
Time is of the essence: In June 2016, the U.N. Human Rights Council will hold its 32nd session, where the High Commissioner will have an opportunity to address the Council and request that action be taken to stop the genocide in Iraq and Syria and protect the victims.
Second, call upon the U.N. Office of Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to fulfill its role "as a catalyst . . . to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate action" – "appropriate action" being any action that stops this genocide.
Third, call upon the U.N. Security Council to refer the matter of genocide prosecution to the International Criminal Court; or establish "ad hoc tribunals" for genocide prosecution as was done in response to the horrific genocides in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. These mechanisms are appropriate under the circumstances and based on international law and precedent. We will also urge the U.N. Security Council to consider all options available to it (including resolutions, military, and peacekeeping initiatives) to stop the genocide and protect Christians.
Fourth, demand international intervention, by any means necessary, to protect Christians and other religious minorities from genocide. International law requires that when a State (such as Syria and Iraq) "is manifestly failing to protect its populations" from genocide – as the countries overrun by ISIS's jihadist army are clearly incapable of stopping the genocide against Christians – "the international community must be prepared to take collective action to protect populations . . . ." We must assist in making the case that the contracting states involved here, Iraq and Syria, are incapable of prosecuting genocide and protecting Christians from genocide – thus activating the international community's duty to act.
Fifth, call upon the President, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. delegation to the U.N. to demand U.N. action as set forth above. It is the Executive Branch that speaks as the voice of the United States with respect to foreign affairs and our diplomatic relations with the international community. That is why we urged Secretary of State John Kerry to recognize ISIS's atrocities as genocide against Christians. And that is why we will call upon the Executive Branch to follow through on our commitments at the U.N.
We will also call upon relevant Congressional Committees and Members of Congress to apply this same pressure, through appropriate channels, to the Executive Branch offices identified above. On this front, it is critical that Members of Congress hear from their constituents.
Sixth, call for the establishment of in-region "safe zones" for the genocide victims. This step reflects the duty to protect Christians victimized by ISIS, and continues the ACLJ's "fifth" policy point regarding the Syrian refugee crisis: "The creation of ‘safe zones' addresses the need to protect the persecuted, while still protecting the national security interests of the United States."
Seventh, call for the creation of an effective international coalition to defeat ISIS militarily, for example, by expanding military efforts, changing the focus of the effort, and/or reevaluating the strategy of military action. We agree with Pope Francis, who has recognized that military force is justified to stop the genocide against Christians. The status quo is insufficient. This continues the ACLJ's "third" policy point regarding the Syrian refugee crisis: "We must destroy ISIS once and for all to provide a sustainable and lasting solution for the approximately 10 million refugees who have been displaced," many of whom are Christians or adherents to minority religious beliefs.
As part of our sustained, comprehensive and intentional effort to see that all diplomatic, legal, and military options are utilized, we will develop these steps into specific policy and action recommendations based on both law and precedent; articulate our recommendations in legal correspondence to the appropriate parties; and, take action through other appropriate channels, for example, by utilizing our affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (as we've done before), which is credentialed as a Non-Government Organization (NGO) at the U.N., as well as scholarly organizations such as the M.G. Robertson Global Centre for Law & Public Policy. We will also continue to coordinate our efforts with strategic faith-based partners.
We have covered significant ground in our efforts to stop ISIS genocide and protect Christians. But much remains to be done. We must seize the momentum and press on. We must do our part to turn the tide of international apathy. Words are not enough. The international community must act and it must act now.
The U.S. government has now officially recognized the "genocide against . . . Christians," triggering our obligations under the Genocide Convention. We have a moral duty to lead the way in stopping the genocide and protecting Christians.
But we need your voice, and we need your support. We will keep you informed along the way, and as we implement this comprehensive plan, we must hear from you.
Stand with us against the genocidal slaughter and abuse perpetrated by ISIS. Sign our new petition today. Now there can be no doubt. It's genocide. Join us as we demand that the U.S. lead the international community to stop the genocide and protect Christians.
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