On Thursday, September 24, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation led multiple training modules at the International Human Rights Forum, a series of training and educational seminars with participants from various organizations within the Federal Government of the United States, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The three-day event was entitled “Building a Strong Foundation for International Human Rights Crimes Investigations” and included a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Forum was hosted by the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU), which works to mitigate the most significant threats posed by violators of international human rights and/or humanitarian law. To accomplish this, the IHRU utilizes the FBI’s investigative expertise to lead effective intelligence collection and targeted enforcement actions in collaboration with domestic and international accountability efforts. The IHRU recently participated in an Inter-Agency Course on Atrocity Prevention conducted by AIPR and the United States Institute of Peace in April of 2015. A long-standing partner of the Auschwitz Institute, the IHRU first participated in AIPR’s educational programs at the 2012 Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar. SSA Kerry Sparks, who is an alumna of the aforementioned Global Lemkin Seminar, functioned as the primary organizer of the IHRU’s International Human Rights Forum. SSA Sparks saw in the Forum an opportunity to tailor AIPR’s training modules to the specific contexts faced by field agents who encounter atrocity crimes falling under U.S. jurisdiction. Dr. James Waller, Director of AIPR’s Academic Programs, opened the morning session on September 24 with a presentation that outlined the programs of the Auschwitz Institute and explained the organization’s vision of a world that prevents genocide and other mass atrocities. Dr. Waller then continued with a presentation that introduced the concepts of genocide and other atrocity crimes to the Forum participants. After a short break, the Forum reconvened for a presentation by AIPR’s Executive Director, Dr. Tibi Galis, who built on Dr. Waller’s presentation and provided an introduction to the prevention of genocide by contextualizing the history of prevention and discussing contemporary efforts, included include those undertaken by Forum participants. Following a presentation on Legal Frameworks for Genocide and Atrocity Crimes Prevention by the Honorable Patricia Whalen, formerly of the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr. Waller retook the podium to conclude the event with his presentation entitled “Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Atrocity”. This was particularly relevant for participants due to their involvement in the investigation of perpetrators of atrocity crimes, as a deep understanding of their motivations and behavior is essential to the administration of justice. AIPR’s Director of Policy and Planning, Samantha Capicotto, said of the event:
> Through our alumni, AIPR has the privilege of offering further training and educational support to their institutions and expanding the constituency of government actors working effectively on atrocity prevention. This was an incredible opportunity to provide training to FBI agents who are tasked with investigating atrocity crimes that fall under U.S. jurisdiction and to impart upon them an understanding of the ways in which their efforts improve the system through which we prevent mass atrocities. It was also informative for the AIPR team to learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the investigation process and the vast resources and personnel allocated to this task by the U.S. Government, which indicates the high-priority nature of the IHRU and its partner agencies’ work.
This training represents the latest event under the banner of AIPR’s U.S. Programs, which began in 2011. Based on the belief that sustainable genocide and mass atrocity prevention starts at home, AIPR maintains an array of programming that targets a broad spectrum of participants ranging from primary school students to high-ranking government officials and many others in-between.