Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act Signed into Law

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Date: 
January 17, 2019

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (S.1158) was signed into law by President Trump on January 14 after passing both the full Senate (on December 12, 2018) and the House of Representatives (December 21, 2018). The bipartisan bill, named after Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, requires a government-wide atrocity prevention strategy, affirms the work of the Atrocities Prevention Board and other practical steps aimed at identifying countries at risk and implementing prevention programs. The Friends Committee for National Legislation (FCNL), which coordinated a broad coalition of the bill’s supporters, praised the bill's passage. The Charity & Security network is one of more than 70 organizations that signed on to a statement in support of a the bill

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act will ensure that the U.S. government has the most constructive and cost-effective tools to address the root causes and drivers of violent conflict. It establishes a Mass Atrocities Task Force, requires reporting from both the Department of State and Director of National Intelligence, and establishes the Complex Crises Fund. According to FCNL, the bill ensures effective high-level interagency coordination on prevention, saves money, protects our troops, continues congressional leadership and oversight, and builds on bipartisan consensus. 

The bill institutionalizes U.S. efforts to create structures that prioritize prevention of mass violence, first supported in a resolution that passed the Senate unanimously in 2011.  This includes support for the Atrocities Prevention Board formed in 2012 with a mandate to “ensure that genocide and mass atrocity prevention are a priority at the highest levels of the U.S. government.” According to an earlier statement from the primary Senate sponsors (Sen. Todd Young, R-IN, and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD) it also requires training for Foreign Services officers in countries at risk of mass atrocities, or where they are already occurring, as well as a government-wide strategy to:

“strengthen U.S. diplomatic, risk analysis/monitoring, early warning, and response capacities around atrocity crimes; improve the use of U.S. foreign assistance to address root causes of violent conflict; strengthen support for transitional justice mechanisms and local civil society groups in countries at risk of or experiencing mass atrocities; prioritize preventive diplomacy….” as well as mandate “annual reporting to Congress of Administration efforts to prevent and respond to mass atrocities and an assessment of countries and regions at risk of such violence.”

FCNL also noted that the law "Ensures coordination among U.S. government departments to prevent global atrocities from occurring and requires training for Foreign Service Officers to identify early warning signs of genocide. It also requires the president to update Congress on measures to mitigate violence in specific countries, funding related to conflict prevention initiatives, and a global assessment of instability, conflict, and atrocities.” The legislation encourages the Director of National Intelligence to include atrocity crime information in his or her annual report to Congress; authorizes training for U.S. Foreign Service Officers on early signs of atrocities and transitional justice measures; and authorizes the Complex Crises Fund to support programs to prevent emerging or unforeseen crises overseas."