Dear-Colleague Letter Regarding Reports of Roll Back of Genocide Declaration

Jul 28th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured

Congressmen Chris Smith

A dear-colleague letter authored by Reps. Smith, Eshoo, Fortenberry, and Franks, regarding reports that some in the State Department are seeking to roll back the declaration of genocide against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria by ISIS is currently circulating to supporters of the HR 390 bill. The letter is addressed to Secretary Tillerson and asks that if these reports are accurate this effort be rejected and for more information regarding this movement.

Dear Colleague,

Please join us in signing a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson regarding reports that staff in the State Department – specifically within the Office of the Legal Adviser – have sought to undermine and perhaps roll back the 2016 determination that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others. A roll-back would also contradict unanimously-passed H. Con. Res 75 and S. Res 340, public statements this year by the President and Vice President, and the Iraq and Syria sections of the State Department’s 2016 annual Human Rights Report.

Deadline for sign-on: COB, Thursday, July 27 (The letter is being coordinated with a Senate letter that is on-track to be transmitted to Secretary Tillerson on Friday)

Sign-on contacts: Nathaniel Hurd [email protected] (Helsinki Commission) with Rep. Chris Smith, Matthew McMurray [email protected] with Rep. Anna Eshoo, and Drew Bowling [email protected] with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.

  • Please include how your Member prefers her/his name to be listed.

Christopher H. Smith     Anna G. Eshoo                 Jeff Fortenberry                Trent Franks

Member of Congress     Member of Congress     Member of Congress       Member of Congress

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Dear Secretary Tillerson:

We write regarding disturbing reports that State Department staff – specifically within the Office of the Legal Adviser – have sought to undermine and perhaps roll back the March 17, 2016 determination that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic minorities.

If true, we hope you would agree with us that this is unacceptable and must be rejected. The determination of genocide is only the second such determination in U.S. history. It was reached through a rigorous State Department and inter-agency process that concurred with preceding Congressional resolutions. Any backdoor attempt to reopen a settled matter is short-sighted and will have serious humanitarian implications.

We are encouraged that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence publicly acknowledged and denounced this “genocide” in their statements in recent months. Their statements were consistent with aforementioned resolutions from the House of Representatives (H. Con Res. 75) and the Senate (S Res 340), each of which was passed unanimously in the respective chambers in 2016. Similarly, in its 2016 Human Rights Report released just this March, the State Department referenced the determination in the country reports for Iraq and Syria.

Next week marks three years since the Islamic State conducted a brutal offensive in Iraq, laying siege to the historic Yezidi homeland of the Sinjar Mountains, overtaking Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city—murdering, crucifying, enslaving, displacing and otherwise terrorizing thousands of religious and ethnic minorities, whose roots in these lands are ancient. The full measure of human suffering exacted against these innocents is incalculable.

As we approach this solemn anniversary, there should be no questions regarding the commitment of the United States and other countries to provide the humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery assistance necessary to ensure long-term viability of these ancient communities who continue to be attacked. It is incumbent that the Administration speaks with a clear voice, affirming the designation of genocide while providing – and prioritizing –assistance to these communities subjected to genocide.

We respectfully request that you provide details, including any memoranda or communications, on whether staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser, or any other office or bureau, sought to change, clarify, contradict, or undermine the March 17, 2016 genocide determination.

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