The U.S. State Department was asked last week if the Islamic State (IS, also called ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) was committing genocide.
An earlier report by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) labeled IS actions toward the Yezidi people in northern Iraq and Syria as genocide.
A reporter asked the State Department to respond to the USHMM publication.
“I think the world and we, the U.S., are horrified and continue to be horrified by ISIL’s atrocities against the Yezidi people. At this point in time, though, we have not yet made a formal finding of genocide,” a State Department spokesman said.
The term genocide first emerged as a description of Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jewish people, and an international definition was codified via a U.N. resolution in 1946 and a genocide convention in 1948.
“Genocide is not a policy decision,” another reporter said. “You either thinks it’s genocide or you don’t … and you don’t for a certain reason. Is that correct?”
“We’re looking at the report,” the State Department spokesman replied. “We have not made that determination.”
“I’m trying to understand why you haven’t made that determination,” the reporter responded. “Are you gathering evidence to make a determination? … What are you missing? Are you missing evidence or you don’t feel that it meets the criteria?”
“I would just say we’re looking at the report that the Holocaust Museum has issued, and we haven’t made a determination,” the government spokesman said. “I’ll leave it there.”
Bipartisan legislation labeling ISIL’s actions against religious minorities as genocide is under consideration in the U.S. House, while a Yahoo report indicated that the Obama administration is moving toward a decision to call ISIL’s actions against the Yezidi genocide.
A comparable exchange took place in April when a State Department spokesperson dodged numerous questions about the Obama administration’s decision not to call the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians genocide.