For Immediate Release: July 24, 2012
Washington, DC – Today in remarks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the prevention of mass atrocities is a key national security priority and moral imperative for the United States. Human Rights First praised the Secretary’s remarks that mass atrocities and genocide “are not spontaneous crimes but always planned” and that preventing such crimes requires robust action from the U.S government aimed at ending the supply of resources that perpetrators need to execute these crimes, as one of several strategies of atrocity prevention. Disruption of atrocity enablers is an action that can be implemented by the U.S. government and its allies as soon as early warning signs of atrocities emerge and should be continued throughout the escalation of the violence, should preventative measures fail.
“As the tragic reality in Syria has shown us and as Secretary Clinton stated today, the actions of a few countries like Russia, China and Iran have been catastrophic. Their actions in and out of the UN Security Council have allowed for a constant supply of weapons flow to the Syrian regime. That has enabled the commission of crimes against humanity and the death of 19,000 civilians,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed, who attended today’s speech. “Efforts to extend sanctions to these actors and the commercial entities they rely on will be a key tool in disrupting resources from reaching perpetrators who will use them to commit atrocities. This is true not just for Syria but for most atrocity contexts.”
According to Secretary Clinton, the planning of mass atrocities and genocide is like “stacking dry firewood before lighting it on fire.” She further asserted that the moment for U.S and international action “is before the wood has been stacked and before the match is lit.” As the newly appointed Atrocities Prevent Board begins its work, Human Rights First urges that cutting off access to the supplies and money that fuel atrocities should be a strategic priority for this group.
“Each agency represented on the Atrocities Prevention Board has points of leverage that can be used to disrupt atrocity enablers. From financial sanctions imposed by the Department of Treasury and cutting off lucrative defense contracts entered into by Department of Defense to visa and travel ban programs overseen by Department of State and laws that can be invoked by the Department of Justice to hold accountable those who commit atrocities, the U.S. government is well poised to intervene early and often to prevent atrocities,” concludes Hameed. “This combination of tools must be used through a systematic and whole of government strategy that embeds tracking and disrupting enablers. It can be a powerful tool for the Atrocity Prevention Board, one that is currently underutilized and implemented ad hoc.”
For more information about today’s speech and Human Rights First’s reaction, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-370-3233.