House Foreign Affairs Committee Passes Wagner Bill to Prevent Mass Atrocity Crimes
WASHINGTON – Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) unanimously passed H.R. 3030, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017, to improve U.S. efforts to prevent mass atrocity crimes. Named after the courageous Auschwitz survivor, the legislation honors the legacy of Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and his life work to fight evil around the world.
Background on H.R. 3030 and the Congresswoman’s remarks from the HFAC markup are available below.
The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017, companion legislation to S. 1158, would affirm the critical importance of the Atrocities Prevention Board and the Complex Crises Fund in strengthening the U.S. Government’s atrocity prevention and response efforts. These tools finance and coordinate U.S. strategies addressing unforeseen crises overseas. The legislation also requires the Administration to report on at-risk countries and mandates training for U.S. Foreign Service Officers on early signs of atrocities and transitional justice measures.
Genocide and atrocity crimes—including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing—include shocking acts of violence perpetrated by governments and non-state actors, resulting in the murders of millions of civilians and other innocent persons across the globe. The legislation establishes that the official policy of the United States is to regard the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes as a core national security interest, and to develop a government-wide prevention strategy.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am speaking today in support of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, a bill I introduced to improve U.S. efforts to prevent mass atrocity crimes. The legislation honors the legacy of Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and his life work to fight evil around the world.
Mr. Wiesel was just 15 years old when the Nazis deported him and his family to Auschwitz. He was the only member of his family to survive. Having witnessed the near-total destruction of his people, he spent his life defending the persecuted.
As Mr. Wiesel understood so well, the true horror of genocide is that it is preventable.
We are haunted by repeated failures and missed opportunities to end these tragedies before they begin. And I know everyone in this room agrees that there is more the United States can—and must—do to help vulnerable communities and persecuted people around the world.
The reality is that good intentions and platitudes like “Never Again” have not prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians at the hands of the Assad regime, nor the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
It is time to take a clear-eyed look at our policy and programmatic mechanisms for atrocities prevention and ask ourselves what we can do better.
The U.S. government has the capacity to effect real change. The Elie Wiesel Act expresses Congress’s strong support for better utilization of existing resources—particularly the United States Atrocities Prevention Board, which is dedicated to coordinating U.S. atrocity prevention and response; and the Complex Crises Fund, which supports agile, efficient responses to unforeseen crises overseas.
The bill also expresses Congress’s belief that the Atrocities Prevention Board should conduct outreach with civil society groups and NGOs to receive assistance for its efforts and provide greater public understanding of the work of the Board.
Additionally, we require the Administration to evaluate existing prevention efforts, report on countries at risk of genocide and mass atrocity crimes, and recommend concrete improvements to our early warning and response systems.
The bill also mandates that U.S. Foreign Service Officers are trained in atrocities recognition and response. Should this bill become law, America’s diplomats will be better equipped to respond to conflict and act before violence spirals out of control.
The Elie Wiesel Act establishes that it is the official policy of the United States is to regard atrocities prevention as a core national security interest, and to address root causes of conflict through our humanitarian, development, and strategic endeavors.
Let me be clear: genocide IS preventable. The United States is the global leader in genocide and atrocities response, but we must ensure that our efforts are better targeted toward prevention so that no one ever becomes a victim of violence in the first place.
H.R. 3030 is an important first step, and I thank the Committee and the many civil society organizations that have come alongside us for their strong support of this legislation.