US: New Law Extends Prosecutions for Genocide
Source: Human Rights Watch
(Washington, DC, December 24, 2007) – The Genocide Accountability Act closes a loophole by allowing the United States to prosecute individuals for taking part in genocide abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on December 21, 2007.
“The new law will help prevent the United States from becoming a safe haven for perpetrators of genocide,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. “Its adoption sends an important signal of US commitment to bring to justice those who are responsible for this most heinous crime.”
The new law supersedes the Genocide Convention Implementation Act, which allowed for the prosecution of only US citizens for participation in genocide abroad. Under the new law, introduced by Senator Richard Durbin, prosecutors can pursue even non-citizens involved in genocide outside the United States.
The Justice Department is investigating several men suspected of taking part in genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia who allegedly entered the United States under false pretenses. However, under the old US law, they could not be prosecuted for genocide because they are not American citizens and their alleged crimes were committed outside of the United States.
Under the Genocide Convention, which the US ratified in 1988, genocide means killings and other serious criminals acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
The Genocide Accountability Act is one of three bills introduced by Durbin that would give the United States the authority to prosecute people found in the US who have participated in serious human rights abuses anywhere in the world. The other bills, the Trafficking in Persons Accountability Act and the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, have both been unanimously endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting passage by the full Senate.
“We salute Senator Durbin for taking the lead on these crucial human rights issues of the day,” Roth said.