Senators Pappas, Michel introduce legislation to address genocide awareness

State Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, and State Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, introduced legislation yesterday to increase genocide awareness and prevention in Minnesota. State Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, plans to introduce the companion bill in the House.

In the 20th century alone, over 200 million people were killed by acts of genocide. Refugees from the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur live in Minnesota, as do refugees from other brutal conflicts that have targeted innocent civilians. This bipartisan bill will commemorate April of every year in Minnesota as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.

“Educating the public is a crucial step in preventing future genocides,” said Sen. Pappas. “With this legislation, it is my hope that we can help stop genocide atrocities through public awareness while also providing an annual occasion to honor those whose communities have been impacted by genocide. We will ensure that Minnesota remains a national and global leader in promoting and protecting human rights.”

A second bill to be introduced Monday, sponsored by State Sens. Pappas, Michelle Benson, R- Ham Lake, David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, will prohibit the participation in and facilitation of torture by Minnesota-licensed health care professionals. State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, has introduced the companion bill in the House. The bill, backed by the major health boards of Minnesota, will reaffirm state jurisdiction over Minnesota’s health care professionals, incorporate internationally-accepted definitions of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and ensure that reporting of abuse is mandatory.

Dr. Steve Miles, physician and biomedical ethicist at the University of Minnesota, said, “This bill ratifies existing standards of professional conduct and assists physicians by reinforcing professional boundaries for difficult dual loyalty situations.”

Ellen Kennedy, Ph.D., executive director of World Without Genocide, noted that a recent survey of medical students conducted by the Harvard Medical School, published in the International Journal of Health Services, found that one-third of the respondents did not know that under the Geneva Conventions, they should refrain from participating in coercive interrogations. Kennedy said, “We hope this bill will educate Minnesotans about this issue and that the citizens of this state will take a stand against the atrocities of torture.”

For additional information on the bills, Sen. Pappas may be contacted at 651-296-1802 or sen.sandy.pappas@senate.mn.

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Senator Sandy Pappas
Sandy Pappas represents District 65, which includes portions of Saint Paul in Ramsey County in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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