[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 66 (Thursday, April 28, 2016)]
[Pages S2540-S2541]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, in many places around the world, April is 
a month where we celebrate rebirth and renewal. But April has too often 
been, in T. S. Eliot's words, ``the cruelest month,'' a month where 
some of the world's darkest moments have cast shadows over our 
  It was in April 1915 when the Ottoman government began rounding up 
and murdering leading Armenian politicians, businessmen, and 
intellectuals, a step that led to the extermination of more than 1 
million Armenians.
  It was April 1933 that the Nazis issued a decree paving a way for the 
``final solution,'' the annihilation of 6 million Jews of Europe.
  It was April 1975 that the Khmer Rouge entered Cambodia's capital 
city, launching a 4-year wave of violence, killing 2 million people.
  In April 1992, the siege of Sarajevo began in Bosnia, the longest 
siege in modern history, where more than 10,000 people perished, 
including 1,500 children.
  It was in April 1994 that the plane carrying the President of Rwanda 
crashed, triggering the beginning of a genocide that killed more than 
800,000 people in 100 days. When we talk about what happened in Rwanda, 
it is easy to begin to think of genocide as a single, undifferentiated 
act of barbarism. In reality, it was made of many individual atrocities 
that took place over 100 days.
  In April 2003, innocent civilians in Sudan's Darfur region were 
attacked, killing more than 400,000 and displacing 2.5 million in a 
conflict that continues to this day.
  This past month, the State Department announced that the United 
States has determined that ISIS's action against the Yazidis, Shiite 
Muslims, and Christians in Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide. 
Specifically, Secretary Kerry noted that in 2014, ISIS trapped Yazidis, 
killed them, enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and girls, ``selling 
them at auction, raping them at will and destroying the communities for 
which they lived for countless generations.''
  I rise here today, in April, not only to commemorate International 
Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month and pay respect to the 
innocents who were slaughtered but also to speak about what the United 
States can and must do to prevent atrocities and genocide.
  The commitment to prevent acts of genocide and mass atrocities has 
been a centerpiece of policy by consecutive administrations of the U.S. 
Government. The United States was the first country in the world to 
sign the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of 
Genocide, signed in Paris on December 9, 1948, and President Ronald 
Reagan signed implementing legislation, allowing the United States to 
become a party to the convention on November 25, 1988.
  In the 2006 ``National Security Strategy,'' President George W. Bush 
highlighted the ``moral imperative that states take against to prevent 
and punish genocide.''
  I firmly believe that U.S. leadership can make a difference in 
preventing future genocides and mass atrocities. U.S. leadership can 
save lives by bringing the power and resources of the United States to 
bear on atrocity prevention, accountability, and justice.
  On April 10, 2014, I introduced the Syrian War Crimes Accountability 
Act in this Chamber. Three days earlier, the world had marked the 20th 
anniversary of the genocide of Rwanda, one of the most horrific events 
in modern history, which unfolded as the world stood back and watched.
  At that time, I noted:

       Unfortunately, we have not learned the lessons of the past. 
     We must do better to not only see that sort of atrocities 
     never again occur under our watch.

  That statement was not only a reflection of my beliefs but a promise 
to keep the issue of atrocity prevention in front of the Senate and the 
American people.
  So today, under the heavy cloud of atrocities occurring in Syria, 
South Sudan, and elsewhere, I come to address this body again. I am 
here today not to look backward about actions not taken. I am here 
today to stress that our job, our responsibility, is to make sure the 
United States has the tools--diplomatic, political, economic, and 
legal--to take effective action before atrocities occur. Essential to 
this is authorizing the Atrocities Prevention Board and ensuring that 
the U.S. Government has structures in place and the mechanisms at hand 
to better prevent and respond to potential atrocities.
  President Obama, when he established the Atrocities Prevention Board 
in 2012, said that ``preventing genocide [is] an `achievable goal' but 
one that require[s] a degree of governmental organization that matches 
the kind of methodical organization that accomplish mass killings.''
  Earlier this year, I introduced the Genocide and Atrocities 
Prevention Act of 2016 to ensure that we do just that. I am joined in 
this effort by Senators Tillis, Murphy, Menendez, Shaheen, Brown, 
Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Coons, Mikulski, Markey, Merkley, Boxer, Casey, 
Warren, Whitehouse, Murkowski, Burr, and Bennet. This bill authorizes 
the Board, which is a transparent, accountable, high-level, interagency 
board that includes representatives at the assistant secretary level or 
higher from departments and agencies across U.S. Government.
  The board will meet monthly to oversee the development and 
implementation of atrocity prevention and response policy, and, 
additionally, address over the horizon potential atrocities through the 
use of a wide variety of tools so that we can take effective action to 
prevent atrocities from occurring.
  This bill gives our Foreign Service officers the training they need 
to recognize patterns of escalation and early warning signs of 
potential atrocities and conflict. With this training, we will, over 
time, build atrocity prevention into the core skill set of our people 
on the ground. They will be equipped to see the warning signs, analyze 
the events, and engage early.
  The bill also codifies the Complex Crises Fund, which has been a 
critical tool in our ability to quickly respond to an emerging crises 
overseas, including potential mass atrocities and conflict. We used the 
Complex Crises Fund in Tunisia during the Arab Spring and in Sri Lanka 
after its civil war. We have used it to respond quickly in Kenya and in 
other countries, where we helped save lives. Importantly, this bill 
builds greater transparency and accountability into the structure of 
the Atrocities Prevention Board. Civil society will have a say, and 
Congress will have a greater oversight role to make sure we are getting 
this done right.
  This is a good bill. It does good things and places the United States 
on a solid moral ground. But the moral argument alone is not enough. We 
must also remember that America's security and that of our allies is 
affected when civilians are slaughtered. Our security is impacted when 
desperate refugees stream across borders. Our security is affected when 
perpetrators of extraordinary violence wreak havoc on regional 
stability, destroying communities, families, and livelihoods.
  We have seen groups such as ISIS systematically targeting communities 
on the basis of their ethnicity or religious beliefs and practices. 
After 60 years, we still do not have a comprehensive framework to 
prevent and respond to mass atrocities in genocide.
  Let this bill act as a framework and also as our call to action so 
that when

[[Page S2541]]

we use the phrase ``never again,'' we know that we are taking 
meaningful action to make that a reality.
  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for an 
additional 10 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Hearing none, it is so ordered.