U.S. Senate Adopts Historic Bill on Genocide Prevention

On Dec. 22, 2010, U.S. Senators voted unanimously in favor of a groundbreaking act “recognizing the United States national interest in helping to prevent and mitigate acts of genocide and other mass atrocities against civilians, and supporting and encouraging efforts to develop a whole of government approach to prevent and mitigate such acts.”

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation was pleased that the bill recognizes the same practices AIPR promotes in its Raphael Lemkin Genocide Prevention Seminars .

AIPR threw its support behind the bill with a petition on the activist Website Change.org , and AIPR executive director Tibi Galis signed a letter thanking Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin for introducing the bill.

The letter was cosigned by 23 other groups that supported the resolution. Click here for the list of Senators who cosponsored the bill.

S.Con.Res.71 identifies steps the U.S. government can take to prevent genocide and mass atrocities, making “never again” a reality instead of just a promise. Among its provisions, the resolution:

  • Affirms that it is in the U.S. national interest to work with international partners to “prevent and mitigate future genocides and mass atrocities”
  • Calls on the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the head of USAID, and the Director of National Intelligence to form a “whole-of-government approach” to preventing genocide.

The act arrives amid an increased commitment to preventing genocide by the Obama administration. TheNational Security Strategy issued in May 2010 marked the first time a U.S. President stated that it was in the national interest to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.

And on Dec. 15, one week before the passage of S.Con.Res.71, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review , calling for the United States to “engage the full weight of our diplomatic efforts earlier in anticipation of potentialórather than in response to actualóviolence, atrocities, or genocide. Consistent with the U.S. having joined others in endorsing the concept of ‘Responsibility to Protect,’ situations that threaten genocide or other mass atrocities warrant very high priority for prevention.”

All these exciting and important developments represent fruit borne from the seeds planted by theGenocide Prevention Task Force Report of December 2008. The report laid out a set of policy recommendations to improve the U.S. government’s capacity to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities.

The Auschwitz Institute has led the way in implementing the report’s recommendations, holding the U.S. military’s first-ever genocide prevention course in September 2010, educating officers from the Fort Leavenworth Army Command and General Staff College in the history of genocide and military options for preventing mass atrocities.