The House passed legislation on Monday to formally classify violence committed by Islamic State militants against religious and ethnic minorities as genocide.

Passed easily on a vote of 393-0, the resolution expresses the sense of Congress that crimes perpetrated by the Islamic State against Christians, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities should be considered genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

The measure calls on all governments and international organizations like the United Nations to label the violence in the same way. Such a designation would have the potential to increase pressure on the Obama administration and international allies to enhance the military campaign against the Islamic State and prioritize refugee resettlement.


“It raises the international consciousness and it compels the responsibility communities of the world to act,” said Rep. Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryMarjorie Taylor Greene's delay tactics frustrate GOP Biden can build on Pope Francis's visit to Iraq McMorris Rodgers floats vacating Speaker's chair over Democrat's in-person vote after COVID diagnosis MORE (R-Neb.), the resolution’s author. “This is a threat against civilization itself.”

Islamic State terrorists have been subjecting religious and ethnic minorities like Christians and Yazidis to slavery, beheadings, human trafficking and torture, among other atrocities. 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said last month that discussions are still ongoing about whether the violence should be formally classified as genocide amid the campaign against ISIS.

“There are lawyers that are considering whether or not that term can be properly applied in this scenario,” Earnest told reporters. “It has significant consequences, and it matters for a whole variety of reasons, both legal and moral. But it doesn’t change our response.”

Democratic presidential front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClose the avenues of foreign meddling Pelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report Pence autobiography coming from Simon & Schuster MORE said last year that the persecution of Christians and other minorities at the hands of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, should be defined as genocide.

"I will because we now have enough evidence," Clinton said in response to a voter question at a New Hampshire town hall.

The definition of genocide established by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide includes killing, causing harm and suppressing birth rates of members of a ethnic, racial or religious group.

The House also passed a resolution on Monday by a vote of 392-3 to condemn the Syrian government for perpetrating violence against civilians. The measure would further call on the president to direct the United Nations ambassador to promote establishing a Syrian war crimes tribunal.