WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution that puts pressure on the Obama administration to acknowledge that the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute “genocide.”
House lawmakers passed the non-binding measure on Monday with broad bipartisan support, by a vote of 393-0.
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also passed the resolution with unanimous support.
The vote comes as the congressionally mandated deadline of March 17 looms for the Obama State Department to determine whether ISIS perpetrated mass killings, kidnappings, and rapes against Christians in the Middle East and the destruction of their religious property amounts to “genocide.”
This deadline was imposed by the omnibus bill that President Obama signed into law on December 18, 2015.
The Daily Mail reports:
As impatient Members of Congress and religious groups step up calls for action, Secretary of State John Kerry is leaning toward making the determination and could do so as early as this week, when a congressional deadline for action has been set, according to several administration officials.
“However, the officials cautioned that a legal review is still under way and said it is likely Kerry will not meet a previously established March 17 deadline,” it adds.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) has helped to spearhead the bipartisan resolution in Congress demanding the Obama administration invoke an international treaty against the genocide ISIS is committing against Christians and other religious minorities.
“When ISIS systematically targets Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities for extermination, this is not only a grave injustice—it is a threat to civilization itself. We must call the violence by its proper name: genocide,” said Fortenberry in a statement issued Monday.
A genocide designation will raise international consciousness and compel the international community of responsible nations to act, setting the preconditions for the reintegration of ancient ethnic groups and faith traditions into their ancestral homelands. … Christians, Yezidis, and other beleaguered minority groups can find new hope in this trans-partisan and ecumenical alliance against ISIS’ barbaric onslaught.
H. Con. Res. 75 states:
Whereas Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities have been murdered, subjugated, forced to emigrate and suffered grievous bodily and psychological harm, including sexual enslavement and abuse, inflicted in a deliberate and calculated manner in violation of the laws and treaties forbidding crimes against humanity, and the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide … the atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons, are, and are hereby declared to be, “crimes against humanity,” and “genocide.”
The Nebraska Republican introduced the resolution in the House in September 2015.
“In a sign of bipartisan unity, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last Wednesday passed the resolution by unanimous consent,” notes Fortenberry’s office. “The resolution has over 200 bipartisan cosponsors and is pending the Monday vote in the full House under suspension of the rules.”
His office adds:
On February 24, Fortenberry made the case for recognizing ISIS’ genocide against Christians, Yezidis, and other vulnerable minority groups in the Middle East during an exchange with Secretary of State John Kerry at a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. Fortenberry pleaded for a comprehensive genocide designation that encompasses these ethnic and religious communities, which are facing brutal persecution in the region. By law, the State Department must make its determination by March 17.
A rapidly expanding international coalition has recognized that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East. The European Parliament, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Pope Francis, and presidential candidates in both parties, among many others, are standing in solidarity to name and decry this genocide.
Fortenberry serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.
The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge the genocide ISIS is carrying out against Christians and other religious minorities.
Last month, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated that the administration was concerned about the “legal ramifications” linked to a genocide determination.
“My understanding is that the use of that specific term has legal ramifications,” Earnest said in February.
There are lawyers that are considering whether or not that term can be properly applied in this scenario. What is clear and what is undeniable, and what the President has now said twice in the last 24 hours, is that we know that there are religious minorities in Iraq and in Syria, including Christians, that are being targeted by ISIL terrorists because of their religion. And that attack on religious minorities is an attack on all people of faith. And it is important for us to stand up and speak out about it.
Although President Obama has recognized ISIS attacks on religious minorities, he has stopped short of using the word genocide, which has a very specific definition in international law that would require multilateral action to halt and punish.