By Julian Hattem - 03/16/16 02:48 PM EDT
The State Department won’t meet a legal deadline to decide whether or not the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) violence against minority groups amounts to genocide.
Congress had given Secretary of State John KerryJohn Kerry5 reasons Trump's final debate performance sealed his 2016 coffin US pledges to do all it can to fight 'grave threat' of nuclear North Korea Armani, Batali among guests at White House state dinner MORE until Thursday to decide whether to apply the label to the group’s killing of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities.
The evaluation is “a vigorous one,” Toner added.
“He is not at a point yet where he feels that he has all the information, all the evidence he needs to make the decision he needs to make.”
The announcement on Wednesday follows a unanimous vote in the House on Monday putting pressure on the administration to call the brutality genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Calling ISIS’s violence acts of genocide would not impose legal obligations on the administration, but critics could use the designation to push for more military action against ISIS and its self-proclaimed caliphate.
“Acknowledging that genocide or crimes against humanity have taken place in another country would not necessarily result in any particular legal obligation for the United States,” Toner said on Wednesday.
“We recognize that it matters whether it’s a genocide, whether it’s a crime against humanity, matters to the victims, matters to the survivors of these brutal acts," he added. “Certainly it doesn’t change the horror of what happened to them, but it’s an important recognition or a decision about what happened to them.”
Some critics of the Obama administration’s policy have called for months for the administration to speak out more forcefully about the treatment of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities. Advocates of the move have documented more than 1,000 cases of ethnic and religious minorities being killed, raped and sold into slavery by ISIS.
Following the State Department’s announcement, the Republican National Committee (RNC) urged the administration to change course.
“The slaughter of Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities by ISIS is a crime against humanity and must be recognized for what it is: genocide,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “The fact President Obama continues to drag his feet in officially making this declaration is a disturbing abdication of American leadership and moral authority.”
“Failure to meet Thursday’s congressionally mandated deadline would send a dangerous message to the world about America’s commitment to confronting and ending these genocidal acts of terror.”
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDems double down on Nevada Latino vote The New Yorker endorses Clinton House race between Republicans turns ugly MORE said in December that the carnage merited the designation of genocide.
"I am now sure we have enough evidence: What is happening is genocide deliberately aimed at destroying lives and wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities,” she said at a campaign event in New Hampshire.
The U.S. administration has only once labeled an act of violence as genocide while it was still being carried out: in 2004, when the George W. Bush administration made the determination about brutality in Sudan’s Darfur region.
— Updated at 6:10 p.m.