December 14, 2018

Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Bolster U.S. Leadership in Genocide and Atrocity Prevention

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lauded Senate passage by unanimous consent of bipartisan legislation to bolster U.S. government efforts to prevent genocide and other human rights atrocities around the world. This bill, named in honor of the courageous, inspiring Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, strengthens the U.S. government’s infrastructure to prevent, mitigate, and respond to genocide and other mass atrocities wherever they may occur.

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (S. 1158) would establish a Mass Atrocities Task Force within the State Department to adequately monitor, analyze and address atrocities worldwide by coordinating multiple agencies across the U.S. government; identifying gaps in U.S. policy; and consulting with NGOs and other groups dedicated to atrocity prevention.

The bill also recommends that the Director of National Intelligence include atrocity crime information in their annual report to Congress on U.S. national security threats, and authorizes training for U.S. Foreign Service Officers in recognizing and reporting on early signs of atrocities and transitional justice measures.

“America’s moral principles and national security interests require us to take proactive steps to prevent acts of genocide and other mass atrocities, and this legislation will help support that important objective,” said Senator Young. “The phrase ‘Never Again’ must be more than just a phrase. I was proud to work with Senator Cardin on this important legislation, and I look forward to it being signed into law.”

“America’s strength around the world is rooted in our values. It is in our national interest to ensure that the United States utilizes the full arsenal of diplomatic, economic, and legal tools to take meaningful action before atrocities occur,” said Senator Cardin. “Earlier this month, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum identified Burmese military actions against the Rohingya as genocide. From Burma to Iraq, South Sudan to Syria, atrocity crimes tragically persist all around the globe. The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act will help ensure that United States can do a better job of responding earlier and more effectively to these heinous crimes. I urge our House colleagues to pass this landmark legislation before the 115th Congress adjourns.”

The full bill text is at this link. The legislation:

  • Affirms the importance of strengthening U.S. efforts around mass atrocities through interagency tools like the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB);
  • States that preventing genocide and mass atrocities are in the U.S. national interest and calls on the Administration to pursue a government-wide strategy to: strengthen U.S. diplomatic, risk analysis/monitoring, early warning, and response capacities around atrocity crimes; improve the use of U.S. foreign assistance to address the root causes of violent conflict; strengthen support to transitional justice mechanisms and local civil society groups in countries at risk of or experiencing mass atrocities; prioritize preventative diplomacy through unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral mechanisms;
  • Requires specialized training for Foreign Service Officers who will be deployed to a country experiencing or at risk of mass atrocities; and
  • Mandates annual reporting to Congress of Administration efforts to prevent and respond to mass atrocities and an assessment of countries and regions at risk of such violence.

“Senators Young and Cardin’s leadership on this bill honors Elie Wiesel’s vision for the Museum as a living memorial that would help save victims of future genocides and in doing so honor the victims of the Holocaust. This legislation is an important effort toward developing a bipartisan Congressional blueprint for making ‘never again’ real by taking practical steps to mitigate the systematic persecution of vulnerable groups,” said Sara Bloomfield, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“We are grateful to Sens. Young and Cardin for their unwavering bipartisan leadership to prevent mass atrocities and genocide. As Quakers, we seek to address the underlying conditions that lead to violence and hate, and this bill does just that,” said Diane Randall, Executive Secretary for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Quaker lobby in the public interest.

Joining the bill as original cosponsors were U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).