The State Department denied reports Thursday that Obama-era officials were systematically removing the word genocide in reference to the slaughter of Christians by ISIS from official documents.
State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday that it is "categorically false" that officials removed references to genocide against Christians and Yazidis from documents.
"We have looked through documents ourselves—the word genocide is in there—that has not been removed," she said, adding that Tillerson "firmly believes" that Christians and Yazidis were victims of ISIS genocide.
Six Republican senators wrote Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Thursday following reports that Obama-appointed State Department officials were removing references to genocide.
Marco Rubio (FL), James Lankford (OK), Roy Blunt (MO), Ben Sasse (NE), Cory Gardner (CO), and John Cornyn (TX) wrote Tillerson with inquiries “regarding disturbing reports that the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser has sought to undermine and perhaps roll back the determination of your predecessor, Secretary of State John Kerry, that ISIS is ‘responsible for genocide’ against Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities.”
The senators were referencing Kerry’s March 2016 determination that genocide was being committed by ISIS against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
“It was only the second time in history that a U.S. secretary of state made a genocide determination and it was widely heralded,” they emphasize.
They ask Tillerson specifically if “the Legal Adviser issued any guidance or directives in recent months that would contradict or undermine Secretary Kerry’s determination? If so, please provide the language.”
“Next week marks three years since the Islamic State waged a brutal offensive in Iraq, laying siege to Mt. Sinjar and overtaking Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qaraqosh, and murdering, enslaving, displacing and otherwise terrorizing thousands of religious minorities whose community’s roots in these lands go back to antiquity,” they remind Tillerson. “The full measure of human suffering exacted against these innocents is incalculable.”
“As we approach this solemn anniversary, and with it persistent questions regarding the long-term viability of these ancient communities, it is vital that we have clarity regarding the policy of this administration,” they explain, “specifically as it relates to the most egregious of all human rights atrocities, genocide.”
A State Department spokesman Thursday told the Washington Free Beacon, who first reported on this, that “the premise of a recent article on this issue is inaccurate. We have not removed the word genocide from documents."
"Furthermore, I can confirm that it is the secretary of state's judgement that ISIS is responsible for genocide against groups in areas it controlled, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims," she added.
A State Department spokesman also told the Free Beacon that the State Department’s annual Religious Freedom Report coming out next month will provide a better explanation.
"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."