STATE DEPARTMENT —
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told the Congress he needs more time to determine whether atrocities committed by the Islamic State group constitute genocide, but a decision will be made “very soon,” according to the State Department.
“Given the scope and the breadth of the analysis he's contemplating, he will not have a final decision completed by the congressionally mandated deadline tomorrow,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday.
On Monday, Congress approved a measure to set a March 17 deadline for the administration to make a decision regarding atrocities committed by IS against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Toner said the process of genocide designation is a “very rigorous” one, adding “the secretary has urged his team here at the department, as well as the broader intelligence community and even the NGO community, to provide as much information and evidence as possible so that he can make the best decision possible. And if this has delayed the process, we believe it's worth it.”
The State Department said acknowledging that genocide or crimes against humanity have taken place in another country would not necessarily result in any particular legal obligation for the United States.
But a lawmaker said a U.S. designation of genocide would have certain policy implications.
FILE - Bones, suspected to belong to members of Iraq's Yazidi community, are seen in a mass grave on the outskirts of the town of Sinjar, November 30, 2015.
“The genocide resolution does have particular meaning when it comes to migration for emergency purposes," Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, told VOA. "For instance, if this is declared by the State Department, you may see more prioritization given to those who are in severe threat of having their life eliminated."
He added, “When there is a systematic attempt to exterminate another group of people, it’s not only an injustice, it’s an assault on human dignity and therefore a threat to the civilization itself.”
The State Department said a final decision would not change the U.S. mission to degrade and destroy the IS terrorist group.
The last State Department designation of genocide was in 2004, by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in response to killings and mass rapes in Sudan's Darfur region.