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ACLJ Takes the Obama State Department to Court to Find Out What They Are Doing to Stop the ISIS Genocide Against Christians


Jay Sekulow

August 30, 2016

5 min read

Persecuted Church



The ISIS (Islamic State) genocide of Christians and other religious minorities is undeniable. It’s horrific. And it must end.

Today, we filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State to find out what is actually being done to stop it.

After pressure from the ACLJ and others, the Obama Administration publicly recognized the “genocide against . . . Christians.” A unanimous U.S. House of Representatives has too. So have numerous international legal bodies and organizations.

The brutal ISIS genocide against Christianity is expanding beyond Iraq and Syria, just like ISIS promised it would. Now two Catholic churches have been attacked during Mass, first in France and more recently in Indonesia.

Media and on the ground reports provide heartbreaking and stomach-churning stories of ISIS’s depravity, and international leaders and organizations have begged the international community for meaningful, concrete action.

Even Secretary of State John Kerry, after recognizing the genocide, called for action. But we don’t see action.  Instead, as we continually engage our government leaders, we are faced with this inescapable question:

Is the Obama Administration doing anything about ISIS’s genocide of Christians?

What efforts is the Obama Administration making at the United Nations? How is it advancing the cause within the international community? What steps is it taking to honor our international obligations and commitments under the Genocide Convention?

Recently, the United States had an opportunity to exert its diplomatic influence at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 32nd Session in Geneva. Unfortunately, President Obama’s State Department utterly failed to do so.

We know this because we were there. The ACLJ attended the Session through our international affiliate and credentialed NGO the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ). We submitted both written and oral interventions calling for action to stop the genocide and protect the victims – including Christians. We heard what the Obama State Department said at the Session, and we read the publically released statements.

They declined to call it genocide and they ignored the Christians.

Representatives from other nations spoke up and worked to move the ball forward. Other nations declared the ISIS atrocities to be genocide, and recognized that Christians were victims. The United States’ representatives did not. It is sad and it is embarrassing.

The status quo is unacceptable and it became clear that we must do more to hold our government accountable. So, as we reported in July, we carefully drafted a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests all aimed at uncovering government records that would show any action by President Obama’s State Department to respond to or stop the genocide.  As we said before:

It is our hope that the [State Department] will answer our request with documents showing it is engaging this issue and working to end the genocide. While we are grateful to Secretary Kerry and the numerous others who have declared that genocide is occurring, more must be done. Now is not the time for comfort or complacency, but for active compassion. It is the time for justice. 

The statutory deadline for the Obama Administration’s response to our FOIA requests has passed. It has failed to comply with statutory obligations under federal law, sending us only a vague, nonresponsive letter filled with bureaucratic doublespeak.

The Obama Administration’s “response” to our requests simply confirms that stopping the ISIS genocide is low on its list of priorities – if it’s even on the list at all.

So we are taking the Administration to federal court.

Today we filed our lawsuit to force the Obama State Department to show what it has done to confront the ISIS genocide and protect the Christian victims, or confirm that it hasn’t really done anything at all.

The American people deserve answers. We must hold our leaders accountable. This is precisely what the FOIA process is for. Things will not change until enough Americans demand a change. We must take action.

This lawsuit is the latest step in our 7-Point Plan to stop the genocide and protect the victims.  As we’ve explained before:

We have sent key legal letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, the 47 Member States of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and two letters to Secretary of State John Kerry. We’ve submitted key legal documents and made two oral interventions at the U.N. Human Rights Council. We also filed written observations regarding ISIS atrocities against Iraqi Christians in a case before the European Court of Human Rights. We’ve seen results as Congress, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have passed genocide resolutions, Secretary Kerry recognized the “genocide against . . . Christians,” a representative of the U.N. Secretary General’s office raised the issue at the U.N. Security Counsel, and numerous countries called for action to protect religious minorities for ISIS genocide at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Most recently, we sent a legal letter to the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. We made the case, again, that the ISIS campaign of terror is, in fact, genocide and that Christians are among its victims.

And we will not stop. We will continue our aggressive advocacy at home and abroad as part of our 7-point plan. We will continue working in Congress, at the United Nations, and with world leaders, and we will continue pressuring the Obama Administration into action.

How many times will we say, “Never again”? We have a moral and international legal obligation to act to stop this genocide and protect these Christians and other religious minorities. The United States should be leading the world.

You can join us in our quest for accountability and in our campaign to stop the genocide. Join the hundreds of thousands who have already made their voices heard.

Sign our petition to 1) Stop the Genocide and 2) Protect Christians today.

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