The Senate passed legislation Saturday night that would create a new section within the Justice Department Criminal Division to handle human rights crimes.
The Human Rights Enforcement Act of 2009, which was approved by unanimous consent, would lay the groundwork to merge the Office of Special Investigations and the Domestic Security Section into the new section. The Office of Special Investigations — which was created to probe Nazi criminals living in the United States — handles U.S. citizens who committed human rights crimes. The Domestic Security Section focuses on non-U.S. citizens who violated human rights laws and who are now in the United States.
The new section would prosecute torture, genocide, child soldiers and war crimes that are committed by any person who is in the United States. Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer said last month that he supports the establishment of a human rights section. Read our previous report here.
The bill is sponsored by Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who are the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary panel’s Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee. There is no companion House bill.
This post has been corrected from an earlier version.