Press Release

February 12, 2016
U.S. Senators Introduce Bipartisan Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016

WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016. Co-sponsored by 13 other Senators, this bipartisan legislation ensures that the U.S. government works in a coordinated manner using 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. Joining Senators Cardin and Tillis in co-sponsoring the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016 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.). 

“Over seventy years after the Holocaust, the United States still lacks a comprehensive framework to prevent and respond to mass atrocities and genocide,” said Senator Cardin.  “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.” 

“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 cults 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.” 

“With the horrors of the Holocaust in mind, the United States must continue to be a world leader in ending genocide,” said Senator Mikulski, Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure the United States is able to use all of the tools at our disposal to more quickly and effectively detect and prevent genocide of at-risk populations. We don’t ever want history to repeat itself. We must keep working towards tolerance, peace, and justice, and always to end genocide.” 

“Genocide and mass atrocities are nearly impossible to predict without coordination between government agencies – information falls through the cracks and lives are lost,” said Senator Brown. “This bill would make permanent an interagency board that shares resources and intelligence to prevent the world’s next mass atrocity, and would give American diplomats the training and tools they need to recognize when instability or violence is escalating so the United States can quickly respond.”

“Too often we ignore simmering conflicts until they erupt into unspeakable violence and atrocities,” said Senator Murphy.  “In the recent past we’ve witnessed this tragedy play out in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. Persistent conflict, lawlessness, and displaced populations create conditions for targeted violence and extremism to thrive. Preventing these crises is a moral imperative, and it will protect our national security and the stability of our allies.  I support this bipartisan legislation because it will expand the tools we have to identify warning signs, diffuse tensions, and work broadly with local and international partners to address root causes of violence. 

“The Atrocity Prevention Board is a critical tool to prevent conflicts from escalating into international disasters that threaten security and human rights across the globe,” said Senator Coons.  “This legislation will provide the US with the capability and resources to identify conflicts early so we can respond immediately and effectively before mass atrocities and genocide occurs. Focusing on prevention now can yield long term results in the protection of human rights in the years to come.” 

“With rising instability and conflict threatening vulnerable populations around the world, we need to do more to prevent genocide,” said Senator Shaheen. “The measures in this bill will better equip our government to detect early warning signs and act before mass atrocities occur.  As Americans, we take pride in our global leadership.  We can and should protect the most vulnerable.” 

This legislation strengthens atrocity prevention efforts by:

  • Authorizing the establishment of a transparent, accountable, high-level Atrocity Prevention Board to advance an interagency effort to prevent mass atrocities and ensure a coordinated and effective response to emerging and ongoing atrocities;
  • Authorizing the Complex Crises Fund, overseen by the Administrator of USAID, to support emergency efforts to prevent or respond to emerging or unforeseen foreign complex crises overseas, including potential mass atrocities and conflict;


  • Mandates training for Department of State and USAID Foreign Service Officers at high risk posts to recognize patterns of escalation and early warning signs of potential atrocities or violence and
  • Encourages the Director of National Intelligence to include in his/her annual testimony to Congress on threats to US national security a review of countries or regions at risk of mass atrocities or genocide

Full text of the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act can be found here

This Resolution is actively supported by 26 atrocity prevention and human rights groups. The list can be found here.