WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America welcomed the adoption by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday of legislation closing a legal loophole preventing the Justice Department from prosecuting individuals in the United States who have committed genocide in other countries. The resolution, S.888, was adopted by the Senate in March and is now headed to President Bush for signature.
Known as the Genocide Accountability Act, S. 888 was introduced by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), the lead author of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, along with Tom Coburn (R-OK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and John Cornyn (R-TX).
Commenting on the measure’s adoption, Senator Durbin noted that, "There is no safe haven for the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese who have faced genocide in Darfur and yet without this law, our country could become a safe haven for their killers. When this bill becomes law, the current loophole in our genocide law will close and perpetrators of genocide who come to our country will face meaningful consequences."
"As Armenian Americans, we welcome the adoption of Senator Durbin’s human rights legislation as a powerful reflection of the growing consensus that breaking the cycle of genocide represents a core moral and foreign policy challenge for the American people," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "We value Senator Durbin’s principled leadership and extend our appreciation to all the leaders, in both the Senate and House, who played a role in its adoption."
The ANCA has, since its introduction, supported the adoption of this legislation and worked to support its passage by the House as part of a coalition that includes the Save Darfur Coalition, Genocide Intervention Network, American Jewish World Service, Armenian Assembly of America, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Alliance for Justice, and Refugees International. In a March letter to members of the Senate, the coalition stressed that, "The United States must not remain passive when those suspected of genocide enter or are found in its territory. By eliminating barriers to prosecution, the Genocide Accountability Act will ensure that perpetrators of genocide do not evade accountability when they are found in the United States. We welcome its introduction and strongly urge its enactment into law."
Under current U.S. law, genocide is only considered a crime if it is committed within the United States or by a U.S. national outside the United States. The Genocide Accountability Act would close this loophole by amending the Genocide Convention Implementation Act to allow prosecution of non-U.S. citizens for genocide committed outside the United States.