Top lawyers of the State Department are in the process of removing the term “genocide” in reference to ISIS killings of Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria before documents are being delivered to respective parties, according to Fox News.
The efforts stem from Obama-era policies that worked to exclude Iraqi Christians and other minority religious populations from key U.S. aid programs, noted human rights activists. The decision to remove the term is spearheaded by Richard Visek, appointed by President Obama as head of the State Department’s Office of Legal Adviser in October 2016.
Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer and director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, has expressed concern over Visek’s action.
“I don’t think for a minute it’s a bureaucratic decision – it’s ideological,” she said.
John Kerry, previous Secretary of State, published a document in March 2016 that designated the ISIS killings of Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims as genocide. That term carries tremendous weight. The United States has used it only sparingly since the legal definition of genocide was determined in a 1948 treaty.
In this case, it’s being applied to an ongoing mass murder against ethnic and religious minorities. The treaty requires that the United States obtain signatories to take steps to “prevent and punish” genocide, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
The Christian population in Iraq has been decimated. In 2002, numbers had risen as high as 1.4 million; by 2017 that estimation is at 250,000 persons, reports the Beacon. Activists believe that unless government agencies act, the entire region of Christians and religious minorities could be eradicated.
President Trump has pledged support to do everything in his power to protect Middle Eastern Christian communities, and congressional leaders have passed legislation to provide funding for refugee relief – but only $10 million is specifically earmarked for Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities.
“There is congressional legislation … that calls for the U.S. government to stop excluding the genocide-targeted minorities in Iraq,” said Shea. “This has been a pervasive problem that this aid has not been getting to them.”
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