WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) led a large group of their colleagues Wednesday in introducing bipartisan legislation to bolster U.S. government efforts to prevent genocide and other human rights atrocities around the world.
The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017 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. The legislation also authorizes the Complex Crises Fund, which supports U.S. prevention of or response to atrocities.
Joining the bill as original cosponsors are 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.).
“Atrocity crimes tragically persist around the globe, from Syria and South Sudan to Burma and Iraq. 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,” said Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Our values and national security interests require us to ensure that the United States utilizes the full arsenal of diplomatic, economic, and legal tools to take meaningful action before atrocities occur. The United States must do a better job of responding earlier and more effectively to these heinous crimes.”
“The United States has a moral and strategic imperative to help prevent and respond to acts of genocide and other mass atrocities, and this legislation would ensure the U.S. government is better prepared to fulfill this serious responsibility,” said Senator Young, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This bipartisan legislation would help the United States put the commitment of ‘Never Again’ into action.”
“America has been the defender and hope for persecuted peoples across the globe. It is a trait that has defined our nation as unique in the history of the world,” said Senator Tillis. “The rise of terrorist organizations like ISIL and al-Shabaab that are committing genocide against minority ethnic and religious groups has created a desperate need for American leadership and moral clarity. I’m honored to join my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to enhance our nation’s ability to detect the early warning signs of atrocities, which can ultimately help protect at-risk groups and save innocent lives.”
“Elie Wiesel taught us that ‘silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.’ We cannot turn our backs on suffering wherever it occurs, or we will again be judged by history,” said Senator Durbin. “This legislation will help the State Department better identify and respond to the threat of genocide and help us keep our promise to past generations of genocide survivors.”