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U.S. Efforts To Prevent Genocide

Burial site of Rwandan Genocide victims
Burial site of Rwandan Genocide victims

Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and moral responsibility of the United States.

Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and moral responsibility of the United States. Everyone's security is affected when civilians are slaughtered, refugees flee across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability.

Too often government intervention in genocide arrives too late, when opportunities for prevention or low-cost, low-risk action have been missed. Human rights atrocities in the past, such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the Holocaust in Europe have shown that a "concerted and coordinated effort" is needed to prevent rogue states from systematically slaughtering their civilians.

As President Barack Obama has said, in the face of a potential mass atrocity "our options are never limited to either sending in the military or standing by and doing nothing. The actions that can be taken are many. They range from economic to diplomatic interventions and from non-combat military actions to outright intervention."

But government leadership and organization are required to make sure that the full range of options is available. That's why President Obama has ordered the establishment of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board, which will include officials from the White House, Pentagon, State Department and other agencies. The board's goal is to more effectively coordinate the U.S. response to unfolding human rights atrocities around the world.

In a separate proclamation, President Obama explicitly barred individuals who have planned, ordered, aided and abetted, assisted, committed, or otherwise participated in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other serious violations of human rights, including genocide, from obtaining a visa to enter the United States. The visa-ban is aimed at deterring would-be participants or organizers of human rights violations.

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, the measures announced by President Obama will help the United States "put our principles into practice" and protect more people around the world. The new interagency Atrocities Prevention Board will "develop cross-cutting strategies to prevent atrocities and ensure that senior officials throughout our government are warned about emerging threats."