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Atrocities in Iraq, Syria Focus of Upcoming Helsinki Commission Hearing

Genocide, War Crimes Driving Refugee Crisis in OSCE Countries

WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing:

“Atrocities in Iraq and Syria: Relief for Survivors and Accountability for Perpetrators”

Thursday, September 22, 2016
10:00AM
Rayburn House Office Building
Room 2200

Live Webcast: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission

Earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that ISIS has been committing genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria. Following the recent introduction by Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) of the bipartisan Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2016 (H.R. 5961), the hearing will highlight ways that the United States can provide relief for the religious and ethnic communities that survived. It will also examine how to ensure that perpetrators of genocide and related crimes in Iraq and Syria are punished.

Witnesses will discuss ways to best support the criminal investigation, prosecution, and conviction of the perpetrators, and identify gaps in U.S. criminal statutes that make it difficult to prosecute Americans or foreigners in the U.S. who have committed such crimes. Additionally, the hearing will investigate the humanitarian vulnerabilities and lack of assistance that force the survivors to flee their homes; recommend ways to support entities effectively serving genocide survivors in-country, including faith-based entities; and examine the creation of a “Priority Two” (“P-2”) designation for Iraqi and Syrian survivors of genocide to give them an additional avenue into the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program process.

The following witnesses are scheduled to participate:

  • Chris Engels, Deputy Director, Commission for International Justice and Accountability
  • David Scheffer, Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues
  • Steve Rasche, Legal Counsel and Director of Resettlement Programs, Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil
  • Bill Canny, Executive Director, Migration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

Background: In 2013, ISIS began its brutal campaign of extermination and expulsion in Syria, expanding to Iraq in 2014. Many of those who survived these atrocities have been joining the flood of refugees streaming out of the region to Europe and other areas of safety. Resolving their plight is a key component to helping address the refugee crisis and has been of intense interest to countries in the OSCE region.

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