Human Rights First welcomed passage by the House of Representatives yesterday of the Genocide Accountability Act, a law that will strengthen the ability of the United States to deter genocide and hold those who commit this heinous crime accountable. Specifically the Act empowers the Justice Department to prosecute perpetrators of genocide in the United States, regardless of their nationality or the location of the genocide. The Act had strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. We commend the leadership of co-sponsors Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate, and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Mike Pence (R-IN) in the House. The Act will now be sent to President Bush for his signature.
The Genocide Accountability Act fills a gap in U.S. law: without this legislation, non-U.S. citizens suspected of having perpetrated genocide abroad who were found in the United States could not be prosecuted here. The Genocide Accountability Act, however, will provide the Justice Department an important tool to hold accountable perpetrators from Rwanda and Bosnia, for example, despite their attempts to evade prosecution by coming to the U.S. The Genocide Accountability Act therefore prevents perpetrators of genocide from finding safe haven in the United States.
“We welcome the Genocide Accountability Act, as it not only helps us to address unconscionable crimes after they occur, but we also believe it has a preventive effect,” stated Betsy Apple, Director of HRF’s Crimes Against Humanity Program. “It sends the clear signal that the worst criminals cannot escape punishment for their crimes by coming to the U.S., and that ultimately has a deterrent effect.”
The Genocide Accountability Act was the first piece of legislation introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. Human Rights First applauds the work of the Subcommittee and welcomes the passage of this important piece of legislation.