Kerry says IS group is committing genocide in Iraq and Syria
John Kerry has determined that the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, according to US officials.
But the Secretary of State's finding will not obligate the United States to take additional action against IS militants and does not prejudge any prosecution against its members, said the officials.
A day after the State Department said Mr Kerry would miss the March 17 deadline, the officials said Kerry had completed his review and determined that Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups are victims of genocide.
The House this week passed a nonbinding resolution by a 393-0 vote condemning IS atrocities as genocide.
Politiicans and others who have advocated for the finding had sharply criticised the department's disclosure on Wednesday that deadline would be missed.
The officials said Mr Kerry concluded his review just hours after that announcement and that the criticism had not affected his decision.
The determination marks only the second time a US administration has declared that a genocide was being committed during an ongoing conflict.
The first was in 2004, when then-secretary of state Colin Powell determined that atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region constituted genocide.
Mr Powell reached that determination amid much lobbying from human rights groups, but only after State Department lawyers advised him that it would not - contrary to legal advice offered to previous administrations - obligate the United States to act to stop it.
In that case, the lawyers decided that the 1948 UN Convention against genocide did not require countries to prevent genocide from taking place outside their territory.
Mr Powell instead called for the UN Security Council to appoint a commission to investigate and take appropriate legal action if it agreed with the genocide determination.
The officials said Mr Kerry's determination followed a similar finding by department lawyers.
Although the United States is involved in military strikes against IS and has helped prevent some incidents of ethnic cleansing, notably of Yazidis, some advocates argue that a genocide determination would require additional US action.
In making his decision, Mr Kerry weighed whether the militants' targeting of Christians and other minorities meets the definition of genocide, according to the UN Convention: "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".
His determination, however, does not carry the legal implication of a verdict of guilt or conviction on genocide charges, the officials said. Such decisions will be left to international or other tribunals.