Today, President Obama directed a thorough review to strengthen our national capacity to prevent mass atrocities. Crucially, the President will establish a new Atrocities Prevention Board with the authority and the policy tools to respond quickly to early warning signs and make recommendations before options narrow and the costs of both action and inaction rise precipitously. The President also expanded grounds to deny visas to serious human rights violators and war criminals and to isolate those who engage in or conspire to commit atrocities.
The United States is deeply committed to ensuring that no individual, now or in the future, sees a path to power in division and death. Moreover, in the enduring fight against mass atrocities, the United States will continue to enlist the contributions of all nations who know that in war, there must be rules; that, in the pursuit of power, there must be limits; that, even in a violent world, there must be rights; and that, when the embers of conflict threaten to ignite, we must be ready.
Preventing mass atrocities and serious human rights violations is both a powerful moral imperative and a compelling strategic interest for the United States. The new interagency Atrocities Prevention Board announced by President Obama today will develop cross-cutting strategies to prevent atrocities and ensure that senior officials throughout our government are warned about emerging threats. And for the first time, we will explicitly bar persons identified as organizing or participating in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and certain serious violations of human rights from entering the United States.
These steps, accompanied by a thorough interagency review of our practices and capabilities, will improve our ability to prevent and respond to future mass atrocities and human rights violations. They will help us put our principles into practice and protect more people in more places.
THE VICE PRESIDENT
THE SECRETARY OF STATE
THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY
ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OF STAFF
DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE UNITED NATIONS
ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT
ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS
DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION
DIRECTOR OF THE PEACE CORPS
DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO THE VICE PRESIDENT
DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY
DIRECTOR OF THE DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SUBJECT: Creation of an Interagency Atrocities Prevention Board and Corresponding Interagency Review
Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.
Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. America’s reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide. Unfortunately, history has taught us that our pursuit of a world where states do not systematically slaughter civilians will not come to fruition without concerted and coordinated effort.
Governmental engagement on atrocities and genocide too often arrives too late, when opportunities for prevention or low-cost, low-risk action have been missed. By the time these issues have commanded the attention of senior policy makers, the menu of options has shrunk considerably and the costs of action have risen.
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 ensuring that the full range of options is available requires a level of governmental organization that matches the methodical organization characteristic of mass killings.
Sixty six years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide. This has left us ill prepared to engage early, proactively, and decisively to prevent threats from evolving into large scale civilian atrocities.
Accordingly, I hereby direct the establishment of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board within 120 days from the date of this Presidential Study Directive. The primary purpose of the Atrocities Prevention Board shall be to coordinate a whole of government approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide. By institutionalizing the coordination of atrocity prevention, we can ensure: (1) that our national security apparatus recognizes and is responsive to early indicators of potential atrocities; (2) that departments and agencies develop and implement comprehensive atrocity prevention and response strategies in a manner that allows “red flags” and dissent to be raised to decision makers; (3) that we increase the capacity and develop doctrine for our foreign service, armed services, development professionals, and other actors to engage in the full spectrum of smart prevention activities; and (4) that we are optimally positioned to work with our allies in order to ensure that the burdens of atrocity prevention and response are appropriately shared.
To this end, I direct the National Security Advisor to lead a focused interagency study to develop and recommend the membership, mandate, structure, operational protocols, authorities, and support necessary for the Atrocities Prevention Board to coordinate and develop atrocity prevention and response policy. Specifically, the interagency review shall identify:
operational protocols necessary for the Atrocities Prevention Board to coordinate and institutionalize the Federal Government’s efforts to prevent and respond to potential atrocities and genocide, including but not limited to: identifying (standing and ex officio) members of the Atrocities Prevention Board; defining the scope of the Atrocity Prevention Board’s mandate and the means by which it will ensure that the full range of options and debate is presented to senior-level decision makers; identifying triggers for the development of atrocity prevention strategies; identifying any specific authority the Atrocities Prevention Board or its members should have with respect to alerting the President to a potential genocide or atrocity;
how the Intelligence Community and other relevant Government agencies can best support the Atrocities Prevention Board’s mission, including but not limited to: examining the multiplicity of existing early warning assessments in order to recommend how these efforts can be better coordinated and/or consolidated, support the work of the Atrocities Prevention Board, and drive the development of atrocity prevention strategies and policies; examining options for improving intelligence and open source assessments of the potential for genocide and mass atrocities; and examining protocols for safely declassifying and/or sharing intelligence when needed to galvanize regional actors, allies, or relevant institutions to respond to an atrocity or genocide; and
steps toward creating a comprehensive policy framework for preventing mass atrocities, including but not limited to: conducting an inventory of existing tools and authorities across the Government that can be drawn upon to prevent atrocities; identifying new tools or capabilities that may be required; identifying how we can better support and train our foreign and armed services, development professionals, and build the capacity of key regional allies and partners, in order to be better prepared to prevent and respond to mass atrocities or genocide.
In answering these questions, the interagency review shall consider the recommendations of relevant bipartisan and expert studies, including the recommendations of the bipartisan Genocide Prevention Task Force, co-chaired by former Secretaries Madeleine K. Albright and William Cohen.
I direct the National Security Advisor, through the National Security Staff’s Director for War Crimes and Atrocities, to oversee and direct the interagency review, which shall include representatives from the following:
Office of the Vice President
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Defense
Department of Justice
Department of Homeland Security
United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency
United States Agency for International Development
Joint Chiefs of Staff
National Security Agency
Defense Intelligence Agency
Executive departments and agencies shall be responsive to all requests from the National Security Advisor-led interagency review committee for information, analysis, and assistance.
The interagency review shall be completed within 100 days, so that the Atrocities Prevention Board can commence its work within 120 days from the date of this Presidential Study Directive.
FACT SHEET: President Obama Directs New Steps to Prevent Mass Atrocities and Impose Consequences on Serious Human Rights Violators
“The United States is committed to working with our allies, and to strengthening our own internal capabilities, in order to ensure that the United States and the international community are proactively engaged in a strategic effort to prevent mass atrocities and genocide. In the event that prevention fails, the United States will work both multilaterally and bilaterally to mobilize diplomatic, humanitarian, financial, and—in certain instances—military means to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.”
–National Security Strategy of the United States, May 2010
President Obama is committed to strengthening the United States Government’s ability to prevent mass atrocities and serious human rights violations. In 2010, he created the first-ever White House position dedicated to preventing and responding to mass atrocities and war crimes. And in Kyrgyzstan, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, Sudan, and elsewhere, this Administration has prioritized the protection of civilians and the prevention of mass atrocity and serious human rights violations, and employed a wide range of economic, diplomatic, and other tools in service of those ends.
Today, President Obama is directing a comprehensive review to strengthen the United States’ ability to prevent mass atrocities. The President’s directive creates an important new tool in this effort, establishing a standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board with the authority to develop prevention strategies and to ensure that concerns are elevated for senior decision-making so that we are better able to work with our allies and partners to be responsive to early warning signs and prevent potential atrocities. Today he is also issuing a proclamation that, for the first time, explicitly bars entry into the United States of persons who organize or participate in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of human rights.
The Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities, Presidential Study Directive-10 (PSD-10), is innovative and significant in several respects:
Presidential Prioritization. In PSD-10, President Obama finds that: “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” He directs agencies to participate in a comprehensive assessment, led by the National Security Advisor, of how best to accomplish this national security imperative.
Organization Matters. The President notes that, “66 years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide.” The President orders the creation of an interagency Atrocity Prevention Board within 120 days from today so as to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to engaging “early, proactively, and decisively.”
Full Toolbox. The President rejects the idea that, in the face of mass atrocity, our options are “limited to either sending in the military or standing by and doing nothing.” He instructs his Administration to undertake a 100-day review – to take an “inventory” of the full range of economic, diplomatic, and other tools available to U.S. policymakers; to develop the appropriate governmental organization to try to ensure early and less costly preventive action; to improve the collection and processing of indicators of mass atrocity; to provide a channel for dissent to be raised during a crisis; and to appropriately train and prepare our diplomats, armed services, development professionals, and others.
A Global Responsibility. The directive recognizes that preventing mass atrocities is a responsibility that all nations share. Often other countries are better positioned than the United States to respond to particular crises or potential atrocities. Recognizing that the burden for preventing mass atrocities must be appropriately shared by other countries, the directive calls for a strategy for engaging key regional allies and partners so that they are prepared to accept greater responsibility for preventing and responding to crimes against humanity.
The President’s proclamation makes two key contributions:
Closing gaps. The United States has long sought to ensure that our country does not become a safe haven for human rights violators or those responsible for other atrocities. Existing U.S. law renders certain human rights violators inadmissible to the United States – such as participants in genocide, torture, extra-judicial killings, or certain violations of religious freedom. However, before today, the United States did not have an explicit bar to admission on the basis of participation in serious violations of human rights or humanitarian law or other atrocities that do not otherwise fit into those categories specifically enumerated in the Immigration and Nationality Act. This proclamation fills this gap by expanding the grounds for denial of entry into the United States to cover a broader array of recognized violations of international humanitarian law and international criminal law, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The proclamation will also cover participants in serious human rights violations, such as prolonged arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, slavery, and forced labor, as well as participants in widespread or systematic violence against civilians based on ethnicity or other grounds.
New deterrent. By enumerating these grounds for denying admission to the United States, policymakers will have a new tool to deter would-be organizers of atrocities, serious human rights violations, and related abuses. The President’s proclamation empowers the United States to warn groups that have carried out, or may be about to carry out, serious human rights violations or grave atrocities that their conduct falls within explicit standing bans on admission to the United States. As such, we will be able to more effectively shame those who are organizing such conduct. The proclamation also bans admission to the United States for those who are complicit in organizing these abuses – not just those who carry them out. As such, it allows the United States to act before planned abuses and atrocities metastasize into actual ones.
The proclamation is being issued pursuant to the President’s authority under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the President to suspend entry into the United States of aliens whose entry “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” There are currently seventeen 212(f) proclamations in effect, including Proclamation 8342 (2009), which suspends entry to foreign government officials responsible for failing to combat human trafficking, and Proclamation 7750 (2004), which suspends entry of persons engaged in or benefiting from corruption.