Remembrance Day Underscores Need for Atrocities Prevention Board

Washington, D.C. – This Holocaust Remembrance Day, Human Rights First remembers the millions of lives taken by senseless atrocities unfolding around the world. It is no clearer than today that the work of the international community to prevent atrocities is far from done. In too many regions across the globe, widespread and systematic violence against civilians persists, as perpetrators of these crimes and their enablers carry on with impunity. Human Rights First advocates for U.S. leadership in identifying and disrupting the supply chains that enable mass atrocities. We commend the U.S. government for its plan to take a necessary step forward in U.S. atrocities prevention efforts, including a robust focus on enablers, by announcing the official creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), that is anticipated to occur next week. The interagency APB is expected to have the authority to develop comprehensive atrocity prevention and response strategies for the U.S. government and to ensure that concerns of emerging and ongoing atrocities are elevated in a timely fashion for more effective senior-level decision making and action. “Done right, the APB promises a new comprehensive, much needed approach to halting the perpetration of mass atrocities,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “Atrocities in Rwanda, the Balkans, and Darfur happened in part because foreign governments, like the US, lacked a central coordinating structure authorized to effectively and decisively drive whole-of-government responses when they were most needed, such as intervening on supply chains. The APB should fill this void by escalating atrocity prevention as a key national policy priority and by offering a central point of decision making and accountability in the U.S. government for preventing and responding to genocide and other mass atrocities.” According to Human Rights First, in order for the board to successfully achieve this task, it will need a full range of tools – economic, diplomatic, humanitarian, and military – when monitoring and addressing the threat of mass atrocities. The organization also notes that focusing beyond perpetrators on atrocity enablers is an important and innovative strategy that should be included in that toolbox. Human Rights First believes that an effective Atrocities Prevention Board should include:

  1. High ranking decision makers to be engaged throughout the process of atrocity prevention policy making and implementation.
  2. Regular meetings with focused agendas and concrete outcomes.
  3. A well-resourced bank of intelligence information shared across all relevant government agencies.
  4. A policy toolbox that not only focuses on accountability for perpetrators but that tracks, disrupts and holds accountable those enablers-countries, companies and individuals- who provide the means and resources on which perpetrators rely to commit their crimes.
  5. Transparent and open processes that allow for input from NGOs, international organizations and issue experts.
  6. Operational institutionalization with bi-partisan support.

“As we join the human rights community in welcoming the prioritization of atrocity prevention by the White House, we will monitor the APB and hope to see the six principles above embodied within its operations,” Hameed concluded. “We look forward to working alongside the APB to make the United States a better champion in atrocity prevention.”


Published on April 19, 2012


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