Smith, Eshoo Legislation to Help Victims of Genocide Advances from House
In response to the ISIS genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities, the House of Representatives today unanimously passed the bipartisan Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390). The legislation was authored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House panel on global human rights, and co-authored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18).
“On May 9, 2016, the House passed Jeff Fortenberry’s genocide resolution 393 to 0. A few days later, Secretary of State John Kerry declared ISIS atrocities to be a genocide,” said Smith, who recently witnessed the devastation first hand in a trip to a displaced persons camp in Erbil, Iraq. “Despite this, the existential threat to Christians and Yazidis and other minorities continues to this day.”
“Some of the fortunate ones have made it to relative safety in Erbil. While there I saw much joy, love and courage, despite the loss of family and friends to ISIS. They had hope. The children sang Christmas carols with smiles and reverence—but astonishingly—last year—or any year—they have not gotten any assistance from the United States,” said Smith.
“Tens of thousands of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria continue to face persecution at the hands of ISIS and they need our help now,” said Eshoo. “H.R. 390 will provide urgently needed humanitarian relief to the survivors of what both the Congress and the State Department have labeled as ‘genocide’ and ensure we hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable.
“I thank Chairman Smith for his passionate leadership on this issue and I look forward to seeing this aid package move quickly through the Senate and to the President’s desk for his signature.”
Among other key provisions, H.R. 390 authorizes and directs the Administration to:
· Fund entities, including faith-based ones, that are effectively providing humanitarian aid on-the-ground to genocide survivors from religious and ethnic minorities;
· Assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force these survivors to flee.
· Identify warning signs of deadly violence against religious and ethnic minority communities in Iraq or Syria that have been victims of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes;
· Support entities conducting criminal investigation into perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq – including collecting and preserving evidence that links specific perpetrators to specific atrocity crimes and is usable in a range of courts; and
· Encourage foreign governments to add identifying information about suspected perpetrators to their security databases and security screening and to prosecute perpetrators.
“President Trump and Vice President Pence have strongly, publicly committed the Administration to providing relief to Christians, Yazidis and other genocide survivors, and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice. H.R. 390 will help ensure that officials implement these commitments and is a blueprint for implementation,” added Smith.
Since 2013, Smith has held nine hearings focused wholly or partially on atrocities in Iraq and Syria. Last December, he travelled to Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to meet with genocide survivors. The Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, led by Archbishop Bashar Warda, has been sustaining more than 70,000 Christians who escaped ISIS—almost 1/3 of Christians remaining in Iraq—with medical care, food, and shelter and has also served Yazidi and Muslim survivors. To date, the U.S. has not given a penny for this assistance and only support from organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need has made it possible. The lack of U.S. funding has contributed to chronic funding crises and this aid operation is at-risk of collapsing by the end of the summer, driving survivors out of Iraq forever.
The legislation is supported by many prominent Christian, Yazidi, religious freedom and accountability organizations, as well as by prominent individuals, including all four former U.S. Ambassadors-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. Additional supporters can be found here.