Islamic State militants committed genocide against Iraq's Yazidis in the north of the country and carried out crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes against other minorities, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said Thursday.
The crimes were committed against Christian, Yazidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean-Mandaean and Kaka'i people in Nineveh province between June and August 2014, said a report by the museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
Displaced Iraqis who fled the Islamic State during that period shared in dozens of personal interviews harrowing accounts of displacement, forced conversion, rape, torture, kidnapping and murder.
“The self-proclaimed Islamic State is carrying out a widespread, systematic, and deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against religious minorities in Iraq solely because of their religious beliefs,” Museum Chairman Tom Bernstein said. “We have a moral responsibility not just to bear witness to these crimes but to act to prevent them.”
Most of the Yazidi population, numbering around half a million, remains displaced in camps inside Iraqi Kurdistan.
Of about 5,000 Yazidi men and women captured by the militants in the summer of 2014, some 2,000 have managed to escape or been smuggled out of Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate, activists say. The rest remain in captivity.
"We believe Islamic State has been and is perpetrating genocide against the Yazidi people," the report said. "Islamic State's stated intent and patterns of violence against Shia Shabak and Shia Turkmen also raise concerns about the commission and risk of genocide against these groups."
The United Nations said in March that the Islamic State group may have committed genocide in trying to wipe out the Yazidi minority and urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
Islamic State militants have seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Neither country is a member of the Hague-based court so its prosecutor is unable to open an investigation unless a referral is made by the 15-member Security Council.
A U.S.-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq for more than a year.
The 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethical, racial or religious group.
The convention said this can be done by killing members, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members, deliberately inflicting conditions on the group calculated to bring about its physical destruction, preventing births within the group or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.