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Intersessional Meeting on the Prevention of Genocide
December 4, 2023

Intersessional Meeting to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Statement by Ambassador Michèle Taylor 

December 4, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, it is a tragedy that the risk of genocide and other atrocities remains ever present.  We must stay committed to ending ongoing genocides, and to preventing genocide and other atrocities, especially as we continue to see risks rise across the world.

Atrocity prevention and human rights are central to U.S. foreign policy as well as national security.  In the words of President Biden, “preventing future genocides remains both our moral duty and a matter of national and global importance…. When hatred goes unchecked, and when the checks and balances in government and society that protect fundamental freedoms are lost, violence and mass atrocities can result.”

The Holocaust that wiped out most of my family didn’t start with the gas chambers. The genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia didn’t start with mass killings. They started with discrimination, with hate speech, and with referring to certain people as less human.

Identity-based violence is often the driver of atrocities. Dehumanizing hate speech has long been a marker of genocide risk.  Rohingya were compared to fleas, to thorns, to an invasive species, just at Tutsis were compared to cockroaches, and Jews to rats and parasites.  Today, hate speech persists and can help foment identity-based violence.

Social media has had an outsized influence on the rate and reach at which hate speech and online harassment spreads.  We applaud efforts by some online platforms to engage on these issues.

We appreciate the panel’s insights on how we can work together to identify risk factors and prevent genocide and other atrocities today.

We share your commitment to addressing, in a manner consistent with international human rights law, hate speech as a driver of and marker of atrocity risk and we will continue to advocate for these critical efforts.

With our European partners, through the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, we are developing recommendations for online platforms to more effectively mitigate, prevent, and enable access to remedy for digital attacks targeting human rights defenders.

Multilateral cooperation in this effort is vital, as no government, mechanism, company, or organization can do this alone.  So how do we prevent genocide? We start by promoting equality online and offline, in our words and in our actions.

I thank you.