U.S. Genocide Prevention Act Signed into Law
On January 14, 2019, the President signed into law the “Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018.”
The new law:
- Makes it U.S. policy to regard the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes as a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility;
- requires the Department of State to establish a Mass Atrocities Task Force to strengthen State Department efforts and assist other agency efforts at atrocity prevention and response;
- Amended the Foreign Service Act of 1980 to provide for the training of Foreign Service Officers in conflict and atrocity crimes prevention;
- Encourages the Director of National Intelligence to include in his or her annual testimony to Congress concerning threats to U.S. national security: (1) a review of countries and regions at risk of atrocity crimes; and (2) specific countries and regions at immediate risk of atrocity crimes, including most likely pathways to violence, specific risk factors, potential perpetrators, and at-risk target groups; and
- Establishes the Complex Crises Fund to enable the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to support programs and activities to prevent or respond to emerging or unforeseen foreign challenges and complex crises overseas, including potential atrocity crimes.
The legislation was introduced in June 2017 by New York Democrat Joe Crowley, who lost renomination to his seat in the Democratic primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Missouri Republican Ann Wagner. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin and Indiana Republican Todd Young. It passed the Senate on December 12 by unanimous consent and the House on December 21 by a vote of 367 to 4.
Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 in Transylvania, which is now part of Romania. He was fifteen years old when he and his family were deported by Nazi Germany to Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister perished. Wiesel’s two older sisters survived. Wiesel and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.
After the war, Elie Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist. During an interview with Francois Mauriac, he was persuaded to write about his experiences in the death camps. The result was his memoir entitled Night (La Nuit), which has since been translated into more than thirty languages. Oprah helped bring the book to a wide audience calling Wiesel “one of the people I most respect.”
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel as Chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. In 1986, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Wiesel died on July 2, 2016 in New York City at the age of 87.