Europe’s leading human rights body passed a resolution on Wednesday calling ISIS atrocities a “genocide,” a week before the European Parliament will vote on a similar resolution.

“States should act on the presumption that Da’ish commits genocide,” read a statement passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “Da’ish” is another name for the Islamic State (ISIS).

The resolution passed overwhelmingly, with 117 votes for and only one against.

The council is a regional group of 47 member states encompassing a population of 820 million. It is Europe’s leading promoter of human rights and democracy, as well as an important partner with the European Union. The resolution’s passage is therefore significant, as the European Parliament will vote on a similar resolution next week on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS.

“It is very important to see that an international institution representing an even larger and more diverse group of countries than the EU has recognized the ongoing persecution of Christians in the Middle East as genocide,” Sophia Kuby, director of European Union advocacy for ADF International, stated after the resolution’s passage.

“We hope that members of the European Parliament will pay due regard to the clear message signaled by the votes of their colleagues in the Parliamentary Assembly,” she added.

The resolution “Foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq” condemned the recent acts of terror in France, Turkey, Lebanon, Russia, and other countries and noted the role of ISIS behind many of those attacks.

The terror group has “perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law,” the resolution stated, adding that states “should be aware that this entails action under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

Genocide is recognized as the “crime of all crimes,” and is defined as actions taken with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” It can take the form of mass killing, torture, deprivation of vital resources, or displacement to bring about the end of a group of persons.

A genocide resolution is significant because it would further pressure the United Nations Security Council to issue a genocide resolution of its own. The council would have the power to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where the perpetrators would be tried.

“Although the path is difficult, the aim must be to achieve a world-wide condemnation of the atrocities of ISIS at the ICC, just as happened with Srebrenica and Rwanda, so Christians in the Middle East can live free from the fear of persecution and death,” Sophia Kuby stated in an interview.

Pope Francis, during his trip to South America in July, said that Middle Eastern Christians face genocide.

“Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus,” he said, adding that “in this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

The U.S. has not yet formally declared genocide, although the State Department recently was expected to issue a genocide designation for ISIS atrocities committed against Yazidis in Iraq. Christians, Shi’a Muslims, and other religious minorities were reportedly not going to be included as victims of genocide.

However, genocide resolutions have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate, recognizing Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities as victims of ISIS atrocities. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal commission that advises the U.S. State Department, has also called on the government to issue a genocide declaration recognizing Christians, Shi’a Muslims, and other ethnic and religious minorities as genocide victims. Photo credit: Oleg Zabielin via