US President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that will help to ensure aid is provided to Islamic State’s victims in Iraq and Syria and to hold the perpetrators accountable, reports Associated Press (AP).
“In recent years, IS has committed horrifying atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq, including Christians, Yazidis, Shia and other groups,” Trump said when signing the bill on Tuesday, 11 December.
Under the new “Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018”, the US will increase financial assistance to those communities who have been victims of crimes committed by Islamic State, which the act defines as “genocide”.
In June the US pledged to fast-track some US$35 million in government aid for Iraqi Christians and Yazidis who had suffered under IS occupation, after Vice President Mike Pence hit out at “bureaucratic delays” in the funds’ distribution.
Trump said the new law also allows the State Department and other government agencies to conduct investigations and to pursue and prosecute IS’ “despicable acts”.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan advisory body, welcomed the signing of the bill. “In this bill we recognise the message that those responsible for these crimes, including genocide, will not escape justice,” said USCIRF’s vice president, Kristina Arriaga.
The new legislation comes 70 years after UN member states signed up to the Genocide Convention, a document that only has meaning if it is implemented, noted human-rights advocate Ewelina Ochab in a recent article for Forbes Magazine.
She stressed that recognition of genocide not only enables adequate support for victims; it also helps to prevent genocide occurring:
“If a state does not have any mechanisms to recognize the elements of genocide in a conflict situation, the state will not be able to realize that genocide is at a verge of happening – and prevent it from materializing,” she wrote.