U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing

Ending Genocide:
U.S. Government Genocide Determinations and Next Steps


Wednesday, May 12, 2021
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM ET
Virtual Hearing

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Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing that will highlight how the U.S. government has made the determination to call, or not to call, mass atrocities against religious groups genocide and offer recommendations to enhance U.S. efforts to respond to mass atrocities.

The 1948 Genocide Convention states that genocide occurs when specific acts are committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. The Convention confers obligations on states to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. Since the United States ratified the Genocide Convention in 1988, the U.S. Department of State has determined that genocides occurred in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Darfur, areas under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and most recently China. Official designations can increase international attention to the crimes, strengthen the case for multilateral pressure on the perpetrators, and bolster efforts for accountability. Genocide determinations are often made only after a thorough and lengthy investigative process.

Today, the Burmese military continues to violently target the mostly Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State, and the Chinese government continues to hold the predominately Muslim Uyghur people in detention camps, enact measures to decrease the population, and actively separate children from their parents. What more can be done? How can the U.S. government more effectively work to halt ongoing mass atrocities against religious and other groups even in the absence of a genocide determination? Witnesses will explain how the U.S. government has made past genocide determinations, explore policy options once a determination has been made, and discuss strategies to prevent and stop mass atrocities against religious groups.

Opening Remarks

  • Anurima Bhargava, Chair, USCIRF
  • Tony Perkins, Vice Chair, USCIRF


  • Todd Buchwald, Professorial Lecturer in Law at George Washington University Law School; Former Ambassador, Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State
  • Pari Ibrahim, Executive Director, Free Yezidi Foundation
  • Beth Van Schaack, Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights, Stanford Law School; Former Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State
  • Daniel Fullerton, Former Counsel, Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG); Co-Author of PILPG report documenting atrocity crimes against the Rohingya
  • Wai Wai Nu, Founder and Executive Director, Women’s Peace Network