Thu, 12/22/2022 – 12:53
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s joint address to Congress Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives voted to update war crimes law to ensure that alleged war criminals cannot find safe harbor in the United States.
Passed by a unanimous vote in the House and Senate, the Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act (S.4240/H.R.7818) will update current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of war criminals in the United States regardless of the location or targets of their atrocities. The bill also eliminates the statute of limitations for certain war crimes.
The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI-01), senior member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, and Victoria Spartz (R-IN-05) and in the Senate by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The legislation now heads to President Biden’s desk.
“We cannot allow the United States to be a safe haven for war criminals to avoid accountability. With this legislation, we will ensure that any person present in the United States, regardless of nationality, can be brought to justice for their brutal, unwarranted, and illegal human rights violations committed under the guise of war. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation finally negates the ‘get out of jail free card’ that has existed in our judicial system for far too long,” said Congressman Cicilline.
“War criminals should never be able to escape justice in the United States,” said Rep. Spartz. “I was proud to co-lead this bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Rep. Cicilline and I am grateful to my colleagues for voting to close this loophole for good.”
Current law allows for the prosecution of people who commit war crimes in the United States or against Americans abroad, but violators who targeted non-Americans are not subject to the law even after they enter the United States. The Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act expands the original war crimes jurisdiction to include war criminals found in the United States, even if they never targeted U.S. nationals.