Democrats' letter urges amendment to National Defense Authorization Act

Vetting human rights security cooperation programs is the focus of a letter sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by a pair of Democrats.

California Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen and 13 other federal legislators are urging the committees to include their amendment that would require vetting of human rights in cooperation programs within the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act conference pact.

According to the letter sent to Chairman Jack Reed, D-RI; Chairman Adam Smith, D-WA; Ranking Member Jim Inhofe, R-OK; and Ranking Member Mike Rogers, R-AL, members are pushing for House-ratified provisions of the Upholding Human Rights Abroad Act that would, if enacted, close loopholes in the Leahy Laws that would “guarantee human rights vetting” of U.S. security assistance that would prevent taxpayer funds from aiding human rights abusers.

“This provision would strengthen the U.S. commitment to human rights by increasing vetting measures to ensure that recipients of U.S. support have not committed human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law,” the members wrote in the letter. “Consistent with the Department of Defense Leahy Law, this provision allows for the use of a national security waiver.”

The members wrote that the provisions would give flexibility that would “continue to address U.S. national security priorities” that would allow the State Department to “undertake this additional vetting.”

“This provision would help prevent civilian harm, ensure partner compliance with human rights, and improve intended long-term outcomes toward good governance, rule of law, peace, and human rights promotion,” the members wrote.

The letter was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill; Patrick Leahy, D-VT; and Richard Blumenthal, D-CT; and Representatives Jason Crow, D-CO; Chrissy Houlahan, D-PA; Tom Malinowski, D-NJ; Joaquin Castro, D-TX; Albio Sires, D-NJ; Dina Titus, D-NV; Ted Lieu, D-CA; Colin Allred, D-TX-32; Gerry Connolly, D-VA; and Dean Phillips, D-MN.

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