Human rights activists are applauding Secretary of State Tillerson for using the term genocide for the first time to describe the Islamic State’s mass slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq.
The activists and attorneys who have lobbied hard on the issue say Tillerson is now using the term after months of equivocation and after Obama-appointed State Department lawyers had removed or prevented the use of the word genocide in official speeches and other documents.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Thursday told reporters that Tillerson “firmly believes” that ISIS is responsible for genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic minorities in Iraq.
“When we look at Iraq and when we look at what happened to some of the Yazidis, some of the Christians, the secretary believes, and he firmly believes, that that was genocide.”
A separate spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon “that it is the Secretary of State’s judgment that ISIS is responsible for genocide against groups in areas it controlled, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims.”
Both spokesmen also said reports that State Department officials are removing references to genocide are inaccurate but declined to respond when asked whether those attorneys prevented the word from being used in speeches or other documents and reports.
An annual Religious Freedom Report that the State Department will release next month will provide a better explanation, the spokesman said.
“I can only reiterate that as a general matter we don’t comment on internal processes. However, I can let you know that the International Religious Freedom Report will be released next month and will more definitely answer your questions,” he said. “We cannot preview that report.”
Multiple sources said that report is likely to come out next week on the third anniversary of the ISIS massacre of Yezidis on Mount Sinjar.
Activists and attorneys deeply involved in the issue dispute the State Department’s contention that it isn’t removing the word “genocide,” saying the explanation is overly legalistic and demands an explanation of their definition of “removal.”
Sekulow’s [Jordan Sekulow, of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice] group is preparing new Freedom of Information Act requests aimed at finding out who was responsible for the removal or prevention of the State Department’s use of the word “genocide” during the first months of the Trump administration.