Atrocities Prevention Board could significantly change U.S. foreign policy

President Barack Obama recently announced the establishment of an Atrocities Prevention Board as part of his comprehensive strategy to prevent genocide and mass atrocities.

“For the first time, the National Intelligence Council will prepare an estimate on the global risk of mass atrocities and genocide,” says Leila Nadya Sadat, JD, international law expert and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.


“By sensitizing the diplomatic and intelligence communities to atrocities risk and systematizing responses to potential crises, the policies of the Atrocities Prevention Board could significantly change U.S. foreign policy,” she says.

The Atrocities Prevention Board is a key feature of the reforms package initiated following the Presidential Study Directive in August 2011 that made the prevention of atrocities a key thrust of U.S. foreign policy.

The board is made up of senior officials from throughout the federal government, including the U.S. Departments of State and Defense as well as the federal agency USAID, and will convene once a month to create and implement policies to prevent atrocities and respond urgently to situations as they arise.

Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law at WUSTL, is director of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, which has drafted a Proposed International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity (

She noted “the adoption of the Proposed Convention would provide a tool that the Atrocities Prevention Board can use to address developing or ongoing situations of mass atrocities by ensuring that states – including the United States – do not unwittingly or purposefully harbor the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.”

“This bold move by the president sends a clear message that the United States is committed to preventing and responding to atrocities as a moral stance as well,” Sadat says.