Secretary of State John Kerry determined Thursday, March 17 that the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, meeting a congressional deadline for a decision, the Associated Press reports.
The declaration, while long sought by Congress and human rights groups, changes little. It does not obligate the United States to take additional action against IS militants and does not prejudge any prosecution against its members.
A day after the State Department said Kerry would miss the deadline because he needed to gather evidence and act deliberatively, Kerry said he had completed his review and determined that Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups are victims of genocide and crimes against humanity by IS militants. The House earlier this week passed a nonbinding resolution by a 393-0 vote condemning IS atrocities as genocide.
"In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in territory under its control" Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
He outlined a litany of atrocities that he said the militants had committed against people and religious sites, as well as threats. "Daesh is genocidal by self-acclimation, by ideology and by practice."
Saying that he was "neither judge nor prosecutor nor jury," Kerry added that any potential criminal charges against the extremists must result from an independent international investigation. Kerry said the U.S. would continue to support efforts to collect evidence and document atrocities, AP says.
While his determination does not carry such weight, Kerry said he hoped that groups he cited as being victimized would take some comfort in the fact that the "the United States recognizes and confirms the despicable nature of the crimes committed against them."
Lawmakers and others who have advocated for the finding had sharply criticized the State Department's initial disclosure Wednesday that deadline would be missed. U.S. officials said Kerry concluded his review just hours after that announcement and that the criticism had not affected his decision.