Iraq Yazidis
Members of the Yazidi minority search for clues on that might lead them to missing relatives in the remains of people killed by Isis a day after Kurdish forces discovered a mass grave near the village of Sinuni, in the northwestern Sinjar areaSafin Hamed/Getty

The European Parliament has unanimously passed a resolution recognising the Islamic State's (Isis) slaughter of religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, as genocide. The historic action on 4 February marks the first time the body has officially acknowledged an ongoing conflict as genocide.

IS (Daesh) has committed numerous atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities, including kidnapping, enslaving and raping Christian and Yazidi women, forcing Christians to live under its radical interpretation of Islam in the Syrian town of Al-Qaryatain and rounding up Yazidi men and boys for execution. The resolution – which was decided by a show of hands at a plenary session in Strasbourg – calls for the actors to be brought to justice for flouting international law, committing crimes against humanity and genocide.

The resolution was tabled by Swedish MEP, Lars Adaktusson, who called it an "historic decision".

"It's really important that the Parliament passed it, on a political level and a moral level. The significance is the obligations that follow by such a recognition," he told Newsweek. "The collective obligation to intervene, to stop these atrocities and to stop the persecution in the ongoing discussion about the fight against the Islamic State.

"It gives the victims of the atrocities a chance to get their human dignity restored. It's also a historical confirmation that the European Parliament recognised what is going on and that they are suffering from the most despicable crime in the world, namely genocide," he added.

On 26 January, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South tabled a House of Commons motion calling parliament to recognise IS' systematic violence and murder against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide. The motion notes that "this disgusting behaviour clearly falls within the definition of genocide as determined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide".

It calls on Downing Street "to use all its influence at the UN to create a stated consensus that genocide is indeed being perpetrated so that the provisions of the Convention can urgently, legitimately and effectively be invoked and implemented." It has been signed by 44 MPs so far.