Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry an­nounced Thurs­day that the ter­ror group ISIS is guilty of com­mit­ting geno­cide against Chris­tians, Yazidis and Shia Mus­lims.

Kerry’s state­ment came on the same day that a con­gres­sional dead­line urg­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to make its own judge­ment was set to ex­pire. Ear­lier this week, the House over­whelm­ingly ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion 393-0 that ac­tions taken by ISIS against Chris­tians and other religious and eth­nic mi­nori­ties in Iraq and Syria con­sti­tute geno­cide.

“My pur­pose in ap­pear­ing be­fore you to­day is to as­sert that, in my judge­ment, Dae’sh is re­spon­si­ble for geno­cide against groups in ar­eas un­der its con­trol in­clud­ing Yazidis, Chris­tians and Shia Mus­lims,” Kerry said from the State Depart­ment briefing room, us­ing a lo­cal moniker to de­scribe ISIS. “Da’esh is geno­ci­dal by self-procla­ma­tion, by ide­ol­ogy and by ac­tions in what it says, what it be­lieves and what it does.”

The U.S. mil­i­tary re­turned to Iraq in Au­gust of 2014 to halt the ISIS mas­sacre of the Yazidis, an an­cient eth­nic mi­nor­ity liv­ing in the Sin­jar area. That in­ter­ven­tion led to an an­tiI­SIS coali­tion and the on­go­ing mil­i­tary ef­fort. ISIS, com­prised mostly of Sunni Mus­lims, has tar­geted Shia Mus­lims, a group it la­bels as dis­be­liev­ers.

“One el­e­ment of geno­cide is the in­tent to de­stroy an eth­nic or religious group in whole or in part,” Kerry said. “Its en­tire world view is based on elim­i­nat­ing those who do not sub­scribe to its per­verse ide­ol­ogy.”

“The fact is that Da’esh kills Chris­tians be­cause they are Chris­tians, the Yazidis be­cause they are Yazidis, [and] Shia be­cause they are Shia,” he added.

It’s un­clear what im­pact such a dec­la­ra­tion from the United States will have. Al­though there are le­gal def­i­ni­tions as­so­ci­ated with the term, there are no le­gal obli­ga­tions to en­force a re­sponse. The last time a U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion de­clared geno­cide dur­ing an on­go­ing con­flict was in 2004 when Colin Pow­ell de­ter­mined it ap­plied to the ac­tions of the Su­danese govern­ment in Dar­fur. That, how­ever, did not com­pel the U.S. to act.

Kerry did not in­di­cate any pol­icy shift in the on­go­ing U.S.led ef­fort to de­grade and de­feat ISIS.

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry.

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