Each year the administration must tell Congress how it plans to prevent and respond to atrocities around the world.
We had hoped that the second annual report required by the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (Public Law No: 115-441), released on August 4th, 2020, would be an improvement over last year’s disappointing submission. Regrettably, the second report was even more concerning than the first.
The Elie Wiesel Act cannot be effectively implemented unless senior U.S. government leadership prioritizes this work.
Although the Prevention and Protection Working Group (PPWG), which FCNL facilitates, provided extensive recommendations for this report, the coalition’s advice was largely ignored. PPWG members appreciate the willingness of the administration’s Atrocity Early Warning Task Force (Task Force) to engage in ongoing consultations with us, but we’re discouraged by the shocking brevity of the report and its lack of critical information.
There are three specific areas of concern:
No Country Prioritization List
Naming countries where there is a high risk of atrocities and where the U.S. government is focusing its efforts is politically sensitive. However, access to a declassified list of priority countries is necessary for civil society to collaborate on and support atrocity prevention efforts while holding the government accountable for its efforts to prevent, respond to, or mitigate atrocity crimes.
The report specifically highlights China – a country ranked 30th on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) Early Warning Project Statistical Risk Assessment for Mass Killing list — while failing to mention a number of countries at higher risk of atrocities. It fails to mention any atrocity prevention work in Afghanistan or Yemen, countries ranked number one and two, respectively. While the plight of the Uyghurs in China and the corruption of the Burmese military are important issues to address, Afghanistan is experiencing ongoing mass killing and Yemen’s civilian population is suffering from indiscriminate aerial bombardment and a war-triggered humanitarian crisis.
Lack of Specifics on Interagency Coordination
While this report does mention the need to make the Task Force’s work more consistent with U.S. policy in the affected regions, it does not specify those regions or detail the “whole of government approach” to address and respond to atrocity crimes.
The Elie Wiesel Act cannot be effectively implemented unless senior U.S. government leadership prioritizes this work. While the PPWG is aware of significant steps being taken by civil servants in the various agencies, departments, and offices to prevent atrocities and protect civilians, their work is not conveyed in this report. Its brevity deprives Congress, civil society organizations, and the American people of important information they need to hold the executive branch accountable for taking early action to save lives, address root causes of conflict, and ward off violence against innocent civilians.
In the coming weeks, the PPWG will be working to develop a detailed analysis of this report and provide its feedback directly to the Task Force.