March 17th is the congressionally mandated deadline by which the Obama Administration is to determine whether the atrocities committed by the Islamic State (ISIS) against Christians constitute “genocide.”
This deadline was imposed by the omnibus bill President Obama signed on December 18, 2015. According to the text of the bill:
Not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State . . . shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees an evaluation of the persecution of, including attacks against, Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists . . . , including whether [the] situation constitutes mass atrocities or genocide (as defined in section 1091 of title 18, United States Code) . . . .
The State Department is also to provide “a detailed description of any proposed atrocities prevention response.”
A decision by the State Department to recognize ISIS’s systematic targeting of Christians as genocide will come none too soon for those who are being persecuted, raped, tortured, and beheaded. As we’ve stated before, Christians in Syria and Iraq have been under attack from ISIS for nearly two years. Thousands have lost their lives; thousands more have been forced to flee their homes or be killed.
As we pointed out in our letter to Secretary of State Kerry:
Testimonies of refugees who have fled Iraq and Syria and numerous news reports including eyewitnesses’ accounts clearly show that ISIS has killed and physically injured thousands of Christians with the intent of eliminating Christians as a religious group in the territories ISIS governs. This constitutes the crime of genocide under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1901(a)(1), (2) and (3).
The ACLJ has been drawing attention to this genocidal persecution - and been actively engaged by calling on the U.S. and the U.N. to join other international bodies and publically condemn ISIS’s actions. On Friday, our affiliate in Strasbourg, the European Centre for Law & Justice (ECLJ), will be presenting an oral statement before the U.N., calling for a declaration of genocide.
With the State Department’s deadline fast approaching, we must continue to pressure the Obama Administration to declare ISIS’ atrocities genocide. The State Department must join with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Holy See’s representative at the U.N. in Geneva, Pope Francis, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament, all of whom have declared the ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide.
We will continue fighting on Capitol Hill to ensure that this Administration recognizes the genocide against Christians and provides them critical legal protections. The House Foreign Affairs Committee last week unanimously moved forward legislation recognizing the genocide and pressuring the Obama Administration to take action to protect dying Christians.
We are pressing for a full vote in Congress on this critical resolution as soon as next week.
We must act now to protect Christians and other religious minorities from annihilation.
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