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Rep. Sara Jacobs Introduces Atrocity Prevention Act

Rep. Sara Jacobs (CA-51) introduced the Atrocity Prevention Act, which would help create a whole-of-government approach to preventing mass atrocities, like genocide and war crimes, by ensuring that U.S. security assistance aligns with atrocity prevention objectives. The legislation fills in the gaps of the landmark Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (EWGAPA) by requiring the U.S. to assess whether providing security assistance will exacerbate the potential for atrocities in countries most at risk. Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Barbara Lee (CA-12) co-led the legislation.


Rep. Sara Jacobs said, “When I worked at the State Department, I saw firsthand how U.S. policies weren’t doing enough to prevent violence and conflict. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Atrocity Prevention Act to help protect civilian lives by ensuring that our military aid doesn’t inadvertently worsen the risk factors for atrocities, genocide, and war crimes. Proactively preventing atrocities not only saves lives, but helps avoid costly response, rebuilding, and recovery that would be necessary after.”


“The United States plays a critical role in standing up for human rights across the world, and this bill strengthens our global commitment to preventing genocide and atrocities,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “By considering atrocity risk when we’re evaluating if a country needs United States security assistance, we’re affirming the importance of the entire government’s moral responsibility to prevent atrocities from taking place.”


Rep. Barbara Lee said, “Autocrats and dictators should not be equipped with U.S. weapons to carry out genocide, ethnic cleansing, or the repression of human rights.  Congress has the obligation to carefully vet security assistance to other nations. I’m pleased to join Rep. Jacobs and my other colleagues in this effort.”


Nicole Widdersheim, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, said, “The Atrocity Prevention Act would help make sure the United States isn’t complicit in mass atrocities. Five years ago, the new Elie Wiesel Atrocity Prevention Act required the US government to assess the risk of mass atrocities and help countries protect civilians. That Act needs to be amended to ensure US security cooperation does not increase the risk of atrocities. Human Rights Watch supports the Atrocity Prevention Act because it would improve oversight of US military partnerships in countries where people are at risk.”


Ursala Knudsen-Latta, Legislative Manager for Peacebuilding Policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation, said, “The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) was proud to support the passage of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocity Prevention Act (EWGAPA) in 2019 and today FCNL is proud to endorse the Atrocity Prevention Act of 2023, which expands and strengthens the groundbreaking EWGAPA. Representative Jacobs’ Atrocity Prevention Act would strengthen critical oversight of U.S. security assistance to ensure it is not complicit in mass atrocities. As a Quaker organization, we support this bill’s aim to reduce violence and strengthen Congressional oversight of U.S. security assistance.”


Felicity Gray, Global Head of Policy and Advocacy, Nonviolent Peaceforce, said, “The best way we can address violence and harm to civilians is to prevent it from happening in the first place. The Atrocity Prevention Act represents critical action to prevent violent conflict, and this reintroduction is crucial to solidifying this commitment over the long term. We need to empower United States officials to act in the face of atrocity risk, and consider how our own policies shape global security – the tools included in this framework are an important step toward achieving this goal, and preventing suffering of communities around the world.”


Amanda Klasing, National Government Relations and Advocacy Director, Amnesty International USA, said, “The United States should stand on the side of survivors of mass atrocities around the world in their struggle for accountability and repair, including by doing more to prevent gross violations of human rights. The Atrocity Prevention Act builds on the success of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018 by ensuring more diplomatic tools to stop the United States government and taxpayer money from enabling human rights abuses globally. The bill requires both the Departments of Defense and State to conduct annual risk assessments for potential atrocities before providing security assistance and to report to the US Congress, providing some increased transparency around the sometimes murky decision-making by the United States government that directly impacts the human rights of people around the world.”


The Atrocity Prevention Act would:

  • Eliminate the sunset of the annual reporting requirement of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act;
  • Require the interagency to provide rankings of countries at risk for atrocities at high, medium, or low;
  • Require an annual assessment of risks related to security assistance and cooperation being used to perpetrate atrocities or exacerbate the risk factors of atrocities; and
  • Require a determination and justification on the status of security assistance based on the assessment.


The Atrocity Prevention Act is supported by American Friends Service Committee; Amnesty International USA; The Auschwitz Institute; CIVIC; Darfur Women Action Group; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Human Rights Watch; Invisible Children; Never Again Coalition; Nonviolent Peaceforce; Oxfam America; Peace Direct; Presbyterian Church, (USA), Office of Public Witness; Refugees International; STAND; and United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries.


Full text is available here.