New Bill Will Tangibly Assist Genocide Victims in Syria and Iraq

Smith, Eshoo, Fortenberry, Franks introduce legislation to provide relief to victims, accountability for perpetrators

WASHINGTON, D.C.On September 8, Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE),  and Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced legislation to provide relief for survivors of the ISIS-perpetrated genocide against vulnerable religious and ethnic groups in Syria and Iraq, and to ensure that perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in those countries are punished.     

The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2016 (H.R. 5961) directs the U.S. Administration to treat these heinous acts as the crimes that they are, and to prioritize supporting the criminal investigation, prosecution and conviction of perpetrators.     

“Mass murder and rape are not only human rights violations – they are also criminal acts that require careful investigation, documentation, and prosecution to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Smith. “We need to support entities doing this work in the field, and close gaps in U.S. law so that our justice system can prosecute foreign perpetrators present in the U.S., as well as any Americans who commit such crimes.”     

Significantly, Smith said, “the legislation requires the U.S. State Department to create a “Priority Two” (“P-2”) designation for Iraqi and Syrian survivors of genocide, and other persecuted religious and ethnic groups in Iraq or Syria. Refugees who meet the P-2 criteria are able to apply overseas for resettlement in the United States without requiring a referral from the United Nations, an NGO, or a U.S. Embassy.”     

“Although a P-2 designation does not guarantee admission to the United States – applicants must still clear the same security screening as other refugees – it provides victims of genocide with a much-needed additional path to access the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” he said.     

The bill directs the U.S. Administration to provide vital assistance to internally displaced families including to all of the approximately 10,500 Christian IDP families in the Erbil region, which currently has received no funding from the U.S. Government or any other government.     

“So far, the Administration has failed to keep its promise to enable these genocide survivors to remain in Iraq and Syria. It is overlooking groups, like the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, that are serving tens of thousands of survivors every day. If the needs of these communities are ignored, thousands of victims may have to leave their ancient homelands forever and never return,” Smith said.      

Finally the bill directs the U.S. Administration to identify warning signs of deadly violence against genocide survivors and other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq or Syria; assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force them to flee their homes; and ensure that the U.S. supports entities effectively serving genocide survivors, including faith-based entities.

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
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