Human Rights

Senator Leahy believes that it is in the U.S. national interest to work to resolve conflicts, protect human rights and to strengthen democracy around the world. During his time in the U.S. Senate he has worked to advance these goals.  As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Department of State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee for over two decades, he supported increasing the amount of foreign aid to fund critical programs that address a variety of problems that contribute to conflict, including poverty and injustice.

In support of democratic development around the world, Senator Leahy continues to advocate for programs to improve governance, ensure adherence to rule of law and empower civil society, as well as to restrict U.S. aid to countries that consistently violate human rights. Using his influence as a well-respected Senator around the world, he has also spoken extensively about issues such as press freedom, access to justice and corruption.

Senator Leahy was proud to author the Leahy Law on Human Rights in 1997. The Leahy Law is an essential tool for protecting human rights. Although this is an important goal of U.S. foreign policy, too often American diplomats have paid little more than lip service to stopping human rights crimes. The Leahy Law makes it clear that when credible evidence of human rights violations exists, the violator or the responsible unit must be barred from receiving training or equipment. But it also provides the necessary flexibility to allow the U.S. to advance its foreign policy objectives in these countries. The law gives the Secretary of State the authority to determine when the law applies. In addition, it gives foreign governments an incentive to correct the problem: U.S. aid can resume if they bring to justice people who commit such crimes.