House Overwhelmingly Passes Wagner Atrocities Prevention Bill
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017, a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced by Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02). 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 moral responsibility. It affirms 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. Additionally, the legislation 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.
This afternoon, Congresswoman Wagner spoke on the House floor in support of her legislation. To watch the full speech, click here.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise today in support of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act. I introduced this bill to improve U.S. efforts to prevent mass atrocity crimes. The legislation honors the legacy of Holocaust survivor 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. 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. 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.
When I introduced this legislation, I thought of the Bosnian community in Saint Louis, my hometown.
This community has shaped what Saint Louis looks and feels like; it has added great cultural diversity to the city, immense intellectual capital, thriving small businesses, and a strong religious presence.
Two decades ago, members of our Bosnian community were refugees. In 1995, Orthodox Serbs under the command of General Ratko Mladić initiated a horrific ethnic cleansing campaign against majority-Muslim Bosniaks. The bloodshed forced 130,000 Bosnian refugees to seek new lives in the United States.
It is fitting that today we remember the victims of the Bosnian genocide, just a few days after its 23rd anniversary. I am continually amazed by the resilience of our Bosnian neighbors; their courage has inspired me to seek change.
The Elie Wiesel Act expresses Congress’s strong support for better utilization of existing resources—particularly the 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.
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 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 act before violence spirals out of control.
The Elie Wiesel Act establishes that it is the official policy of the United States 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 shift our attention toward prevention so that no one ever becomes a victim in the first place.
H.R. 3030 is an important first step. Thank you, and I yield back.