Ben Cardin, Democratic Senator from Maryland and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, alongside his colleague Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, has officially introduced the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016 to the floor of the United States Senate.
The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) strongly supports the nascent Act and the major channels of work that its implementation would provide for. AIPR believes that the Genocide Prevention Act and its emphasis on prevention, if passed, would serve as a potential model for legislation in other states, especially in those that have established National Mechanisms and other drivers of institutionalization for preventive action.
The Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation aims to “ensure that the U.S. government works in a coordinated manner and uses its full range of tools, including diplomatic, political, financial, and intelligence capabilities, to provide early warnings about at-risk communities and states in order to help prevent mass atrocities against civilians”. Co-sponsoring the bill are Senators Murphy (D-Conn.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Shaheen (D-N.H.), Brown (D-Ohio), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Coons (D-Del.), Mikulski (D-Md.), Markey (D-Mass.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Boxer (D-Calif.), Casey (D-Pa.), and Warren (D-Mass.).
In order to “help prevent acts of genocide and mass atrocities, which threaten national and international security, by enhancing United States civilian capacities to prevent and mitigate such crises”, the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016 advances the cause of mass atrocity prevention in the United States in three primary ways:
- the Act codifies and cements the place of the Atrocities Prevention Board and creates high-level channels for coordination and information sharing regarding at-risk countries and situations as soon as the potential for mass violence is identified;
- the Act authorizes the Complex Crisis Fund to allow for a flexible funding stream, which would enable the U.S. to prepare resources for and respond quickly to, any situation in danger of escalating into mass violence; and
- the Act mandates training on atrocity prevention for Foreign Service Officers within the State Department before they are deployed to countries at risk of mass violence.
AIPR is very supportive of these three objectives and recognizes the potential for the Act to create new and robust opportunities for the upstream prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities.
Regarding the Act’s introduction, Senator Cardin remarked:
Over seventy years after the Holocaust, the United States still lacks a comprehensive framework to prevent and respond to mass atrocities and genocide. In recent years, we have seen groups like ISIL systematically targeting communities on the basis of their ethnicity or religious beliefs and practices, including Yezidi, Christian, and Turkmen populations. In the Middle East and elsewhere, the United States must do better at identifying and quickly responding to early warning signs of possible mass atrocities. The Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016 will ensure that the U.S. has the capacity to do just that.
The full text of the bill is available here.