U.S. Religious Freedom Commission Calls For Criminal Prosecution Of Islamic State

ICC Note: In its latest report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called for pressure to bring the Islamic State (ISIS) to charges in the International Criminal Court. The report recognizes the increasing role the non-state actors (groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, etc.) are playing in violations of religious freedoms across the world.

04/30/2015 Syria (Washington Times) A U.S. government commission is calling for international prosecution of the Islamic State over the terror group’s mass beheadings and vicious attacks on Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

The request is a first for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its 2015 report on the state of religious freedom around the world.

The independent commission’s chairman said she also saw some areas of optimism despite the extreme strains on world religious freedom from “non-state actors” such as ISIS and the persecution of Christians and others in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia.

“In some senses, I’m more optimistic about U.S. policy” because a new State Department ambassador covering the area has a strong track record on religious liberty issues, said Katrina Lantos Swett, a human rights activist who chairs USCIRF.

Call for prosecution

The USCIRF report contains the call for the International Criminal Court to bring charges against the Islamic State for its ruthless murders and attacks on religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.

“The non-state actors choose to be more brutal and more unrestrained in the actions that they take against targeted groups,” Ms. Lantos Swett said. “When you are dealing in a world where uncontrolled, uncontainable and extremely violent non-state actors are ranging so freely … that has created an even more frightening situation for religious freedom.”

She added that the displacement of minority religious communities in the Middle East — involving Christians, Yazidis, Assyrians and others — was another pernicious situation. USCIRF reported more than 2 million persons had been internally displaced in Iraq under the Islamic State offensive, while more than 6.5 million persons are internally displaced in Syria, along with 3.3 million Syrians who are now refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and elsewhere.

“When you have that many people fleeing religious conflicts and ethnic cleansing, it’s not only a tragedy in its own right, but also incredibly destructive to the region,” Ms. Lantos Swett said. The situation “is also a humanitarian crisis and has created a political uncertainty and volatility that puts the whole region at risk.”

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