U.S. House votes to provide emergency relief to genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 390, the bipartisan Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).

H.R. 390, spearheaded by Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), provides emergency relief to survivors of genocide in Iraq and Syria and provides accountability for the perpetrators of these crimes.

“The Armenian Assembly strongly supports passage of this critical legislation bringing relief to those who continue to suffer as a result of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The world has watched in horror as Armenians, Yezidis, Kurds, and other innocent minority communities have been subjected to violence and unspeakable crimes, and unfortunately without full accountability of the perpetrators,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said. “Armenians, having been targeted for annihilation in the twentieth century, are deeply troubled that 100 years later descendants of genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria are facing similar genocidal atrocities. With passage in the House, the Assembly urges the Senate to follow suit.”

Last year, the House unanimously passed Assembly supported legislation H.Con.Res. 75, which condemned the atrocities committed by ISIS as genocide against Christian, Yezidi, and other religious and ethnic minorities – including Armenians – in Iraq and Syria.

“President Trump and Vice President Pence have strongly, publicly committed the Administration to providing relief to Christians, [Yezidis] 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,” Rep. Smith said.

The bill states that it is U.S. policy “to ensure that assistance for humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery needs of individuals who are or were nationals and residents of Iraq or Syria, and of communities from those countries, is directed toward those individuals and communities with the greatest need, including those individuals from communities of religious and ethnic minorities, and communities of religious and ethnic minorities, that have been identified as being at risk of persecution, forced migration, acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.”

H.R. 390 authorizes the Secretary of State and Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide assistance to entities, including NGOs, for activities to address ISIS-committed genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Iraq. These activities include conducting criminal investigations, and collecting and preserving evidence for use in criminal trials of suspected perpetrators.

In addition, the bill directs the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the FBI, to encourage foreign governments to include in their security databases and security screenings identifying information about suspected perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Iraq and Syria, and to prosecute such individuals for these crimes.

“Tens of thousands of Christian genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria need our help now and it is essential that emergency humanitarian aid for the survivors be provided,” said Rep. Eshoo. “I thank Chairman Smith for his passionate leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with him and all my colleagues in Congress to quickly move this aid package and bring relief to those who continue to suffer.”

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