ResourcesPress Release

PHR Applauds President Obama’s Establishment of Mechanism to Prevent Mass Atrocities

For Immediate Release

President Obama announced yesterday the creation of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board that will allow the U.S. to respond early to potential crises and prevent serious crimes. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) commends the President’s establishment of this new tool to prevent mass atrocities across the world. The mechanism will facilitate timely, proactive, and effective responses from the U.S. and the international community to mass atrocities.

The President’s establishment of the Atrocities Prevention Board makes the prevention of mass atrocities a cornerstone of U.S. policy. PHR has long documented the need for such a comprehensive policy. From Bosnia and Rwanda, to Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, and Libya, PHR has documented grave human rights violations including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“PHR has carried out the grim task of exhuming and examining remains so that perpetrators of these crimes can be prosecuted,” said PHR Deputy Director Susannah Sirkin. “Our experts have studied and documented the scars of survivors, bringing forward a deep understanding of the crucial nature of preventing mass atrocity.”

PHR hopes that the Administration’s sharpened focus on preventing mass atrocities will prevent human rights crises in the future and will send a strong message to perpetrators of such crimes. As part of this strategy, the President also announced that individuals responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and an array of other human rights violations will be barred entry to the United States. PHR thanks the President for this essential step, which can deter future violators and will ensure that the U.S. does not provide safe refuge to perpetrators of the world’s most heinous human rights violations.

Yesterday’s announcement represents noteworthy progress for U.S. policy, and now the new interagency body must rise to a significant challenge. “The creation of this mechanism is an important first step,” said PHR Washington Director and Chief Policy Officer Hans Hogrefe, “but now we must make sure that the Atrocities Prevention Board is not only fully staffed and resourced, but also has the necessary standing within the Administration, so that the Board’s crucial voice will be heard at the highest levels to ensure the timely implementation of its policy recommendations to respond appropriately to emerging atrocities.”

PHR’s Board Chair, Robert Lawrence, a leader in public health, emphasized, “ As all health professionals know, concerted and coordinated action to prevent death, injury, and illness is the most important remedy for all epidemics, including intentional mass killing of civilians. We are pleased that the President has put this basic understanding into U.S. policy.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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