UN Human Rights Council Calls On U.S. to Enforce “Leahy Amendment”


Call for Greater Transparency and Accountability in U.S. Foreign Military aid and Programs

Rachel Corrie Foundation Joins First-Ever U.S. Universal Periodic Review

UN Human Rights Council
UN Human Rights Council

(Olympia, Washington) – The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday released its draft report on the first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the U.S. human rights record. The report called for greater transparency and accountability in U.S. foreign military aid and programs. On Thursday, November 4, Gina Patnaik spoke at UN headquarters in Geneva, representing the Rachel Corrie Foundation in a side panel to the U.S. review, and called upon the U.S. Government to enforce two existing mechanisms for monitoring human rights abuses – the “Leahy Amendment,” and the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Last Friday, a high level delegation of the U.S. government presented the U.S. UPR report and answered questions from more than 50 nations about the U.S. human rights record. The U.S. delegation was led by Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs; Harold Koh, Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State; and Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The delegation noted “President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s deep commitment to multilateral engagement, human rights, and the rule of law.” The U.S. delegation stated, “By admitting the possibility of imperfection, new opportunities to improve are revealed…”

The Universal Periodic Review was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006 to review human rights records of all 192 UN member states. Last April, the Rachel Corrie Foundation provided a submission for the review of the U.S. that focused on the following:

  • Lack of U.S. investigation of alleged human rights abuses committed by recipients of U.S. military aid;
  • Inconsistent application of U.S. laws that govern reporting of alleged human rights abuses by foreign militaries; and
  • Funding of exports and training for foreign militaries when credible evidence exists that these militaries engage in human rights violations.

The draft U.S. UPR report includes a recommendation from Norway “that the model legal framework expressed by the Leahy laws be applied with respect to all countries receiving the US’s security assistance, and that the human rights records of all units receiving such assistance be documented, evaluated, made available and followed up upon in cases of abuse.”

The Leahy Amendment is part of U.S. foreign assistance legislation and states that the U.S. must review all credible evidence of gross human rights violations committed by foreign militaries. It requires the U.S. Government to withhold U.S. funding for foreign military units when credible evidence of gross human rights violations exists and until perpetrators are held accountable.

In Geneva, Ms. Patnaik explained that there are systemic flaws in U.S. implementation of both the “Leahy Amendment,” and the Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that prevent them from effectively identifying and remedying gross human rights violations. Patnaik stated that multiple sources have provided credible evidence of a persistent pattern of human rights violations committed by the Israeli military, including the killing and injury of international human rights monitors and Palestinian civilians, and demolition of civilian homes. However, to date, the U.S. Department of State has not conducted an investigation under the Leahy Amendment into any Israeli military violations of human rights law.

Ms. Patnaik asserted that inaccuracies and omissions in the U.S. Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices compound gaps in U.S. monitoring of human rights practices. Using the Country Report’s account of Rachel Corrie’s killing as an index for larger concerns, Patnaik noted that the way the report is constructed shapes and limits the narrative available to the Department of State itself and to the U.S. Government at large, and undermines its own ability to identify and assess patterns of gross human rights violations as required under U.S. law.

Ms. Patnaik, a cousin of Rachel Corrie and PhD candidate at the University of California – Berkeley, spoke about the Corrie family’s ongoing efforts to seek accountability in the case of Rachel Corrie. The side panel discussed the role of the U.S. Government in oversight of corporations (such as Caterpillar, Inc.) that are complicit in human rights violations. It was convened by the International Federation of Human Rights, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Western Shoshone Defense Project.

American Citizen Rachel Corrie - Murdered
Murdered American Citizen Rachel Corrie

Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), spoke about the U.S. justice system’s failure to hold corporations accountable for complicity in human rights violations. CCR previously represented the Corries and four Palestinian families whose members were killed or injured in Israeli military operations using Caterpillar D9 bulldozers. In 2005, they filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar, Inc. charging that the company continued to sell its machines and services long after being on notice that these are used to commit human rights violations in the Occupied Territories.

In a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to dismiss Corrie v. Caterpillar, the Court stated that it was unwilling to infringe upon the powers of the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government, which appropriate funds for Israeli purchase of Caterpillar D9 bulldozers through U.S. Foreign Military Financing. Gallagher detailed ways that failure to monitor corporate involvement in human rights violations continues to undermine the U.S. commitment to international human rights law.

The United States Government will return to the UN in March to discuss its efforts to address the 228 recommendations made during the UPR. The Rachel Corrie Foundation applauds U.S. participation in the UPR and encourages the U.S. Government to fully comply with current laws governing foreign military assistance and the Congressional mandates for accurate and complete reporting of human rights violations in the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices.

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