House Votes Today on Genocide Resolution; Kerry Has 3 Days to Deliver Verdict

By Patrick Goodenough | March 14, 2016 | 4:37am EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry has until March 17 to state the administration’s view on whether ISIS’ actions against Christians and other religious minorities constitutes genocide. (Image:

( – The House of Representatives on Monday evening is expected to vote on, and pass, a bipartisan resolution declaring that atrocities carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) against Christians and other religious minorities amount to genocide.

The scheduled vote comes just three days before a deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry to deliver the administration’s view on the matter, in line with a requirement in the omnibus spending bill passed last December.

The resolution, which was approved unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 2, expresses the sense of Congress that “those who commit or support atrocities against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities, including Yezidis, Turkmen,

Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka’e, and Kurds, and who target them specifically for ethnic or religious reasons, are committing, and are hereby declared to be committing, ‘war

Crimes,’ ‘crimes against humanity,’ and ‘genocide.’”

Going further, it calls on “all governments, including the United States” to “call ISIL atrocities by their rightful names: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”

The House Majority Leader’s list of business for Monday includes a vote in the evening of the resolution, which was sponsored by Reps Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).

The measure lists among ISIS’ atrocities against Christians and other minorities “mass murder, crucifixions, beheadings, rape, torture, enslavement, the kidnaping of children.”

It says those acts, and other violence, is “deliberately calculated to eliminate their communities from the so-called Islamic State” – a reference to the caliphate ISIS has declared across parts of Syria and Iraq.

The U.N. Convention on Genocide defines genocide as actions including killing and seriously harming people “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”

U.S. law has similar wording, referring in title 18 section 1091 of the U.S. Code to acts with a “specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such.”

Last December U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) chairman Robert George urged the State Department to prioritize Syrian refugee applicants who have been targeted for religious reasons.

In doing so, George said that Christians and other minorities “have been targeted by ISIL for persecution – and in some cases genocide – because of their faith.”

The European Parliament, too, has defined ISIS’ actions against minorities as genocide, as has the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a distinct body that comprises lawmakers from national European parliaments.

In a bid to prod the administration into taking a stance on the matter, lawmakers inserted into the spending bill a requirement for to declare within 90 days of its enactment whether “the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists … constitutes mass atrocities or genocide (as defined in section 1091 of title 18, United States Code).”

That deadline is March 17, Thursday of this week.

The House is also scheduled to vote Monday evening on another resolution, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), condemning “the gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity” by the Assad regime, its allies and other parties to the Syrian conflict. It calls on the president to promote the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to address those crimes.

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