News Releases

Monday, November 21, 2011

President Obama Signs Into Law Isakson's Bipartisan Bill To Protect Peace Corps Volunteers
 'Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011' Named in Honor of Slain Georgian

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama today signed into law the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011, which was introduced by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., earlier this year. Isakson and the Puzey family were present for the signing ceremony this afternoon at the White House.

The law is named in honor of Kate Puzey, a 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer from Cumming, Ga., who was murdered in 2009 in the West African village of Badjoude, Benin, soon after she had reported a colleague for allegedly molesting some of the young girls they taught. The law will provide better security and protection measures for Peace Corps volunteers.  

Isakson, who serves as the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relation Committee's Subcommittee on African Affairs, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced the legislation, S.1280, in July and it passed unanimously in the Senate in September and in the House early this month.

"This is a historic day for past, present and future Peace Corps volunteers. I commend Congress for unanimously passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 and President Obama for signing it into law today," said Isakson. "May this new law honor the life of the remarkable young woman, Kate Puzey, as it ensures that all of the courageous young men and women who serve in the Peace Corps from now on have the protections they rightly deserve."

Isakson first became involved in the Kate Puzey case in 2009 when he read about her murder in a Georgia newspaper and subsequently attended her funeral. Since then, Isakson has worked with the Puzey family to seek justice for Kate and to pass legislation to provide better protection for Peace Corps volunteers.

In June 2011, Isakson traveled to Africa where he met with President Boni Yayi of Benin to seek justice in the Puzey case. In their 2.5-hour meeting, Isakson urged President Yayi to allow the FBI to assist in the murder investigation, and he hand delivered a letter from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterating the importance the United States places on the Puzey case. Isakson met again with President Yayi in July in Washington, and President Obama also addressed the murder investigation with Yayi during that same visit. Three suspects are in jail in Benin, and an appeals court in Benin is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether to reopen the investigation to allow the FBI to assist.

The legislation that was signed into law today provides whistleblower protection for Peace Corps volunteers, a safeguard that is currently in place for federal employees but not for Peace Corps volunteers. This type of protection would have given Kate more protection when she reported her allegations.

In addition, it requires the Peace Corps to develop sexual assault risk-reduction and response training and protocol in consultation with experts that complies with best practices in the sexual assault field. The training also is to be tailored to the specific countries in which volunteers serve.

The cost of legislation is offset and does not add to the nation's debt. For more information on Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011, click here.