03.11.15

[BREAKING] News Backgrounder On The ‘Leahy Law’ And Leahy REAX On ABC News Report On Atrocities By Iraqi Militias –

NEWS BACKGROUNDER ON THE LEAHY LAW

Also Below Is Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy
On The ABC News Investigative Report
On Atrocities By Iraqi Militias,
And The Application Of The “Leahy Law”

[BACKGROUND: The Leahy Law – first enacted in 1997 and amended and expanded several times since then -- applies to units of foreign security forces (not to the entire security force of a country receiving U.S. military training or aid).  Senator Leahy and the Administration have interpreted that to mean government security forces, not rebel groups or others not aligned with a government.  The reason is that the law makes clear that if the foreign government is taking effective steps to bring the individuals responsible to justice, U.S. aid can continue.  That part of the law could not be meaningfully applied to rebel forces who do not have recognized justice systems. 

However, what is alleged in the ABC investigative report is that members of Iraqi militias, while not officially government forces, are being supported by the Iraqi army and fighting alongside them.  If true, then Senator Leahy believes the Leahy Law applies and should lead to investigations and punishment of those involved, or a cutoff of U.S. aid to the Iraqi army units that are either directly or indirectly responsible. 

While it is challenging to apply the law in war settings like these, Senator Leahy believes that every effort should be made to uphold the law.  And even if it cannot be applied in cases where allegations are difficult to prove, he believes that as a policy the United States should condemn these abuses and pressure the Iraqi Government to hold accountable the members and commanders of units that have been credibly implicated in such crimes.  He points out that a strategy that permits such conduct is a losing strategy and damages the reputation of the United States.]

Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy
(D-Vt., And Author Of The Leahy Law) –

“The Leahy Law is clear and sets a minimum standard.  If there is credible information that foreign security forces have committed the worst crimes – such as torture, killings of civilians, rape, or executions of prisoners – then they are not eligible for U.S. aid unless the individuals involved are being appropriately punished.  The law has two purposes: to shield our country from complicity in gross violations of human rights, and to encourage foreign governments to bring to justice members of their army and police forces when those crimes occur.

“If we fail to act we will be implicated in these atrocities and will be seen as condoning the absence of punishment for those who receive U.S. support and commit the worst crimes.

“Every situation is different, and it can be challenging to apply the law consistently under the conditions that exist in Iraq today.  That makes it harder to do the vetting of recipients of our aid, harder to identify those responsible for crimes, and harder to bring people to justice. 

“But that does not mean that if atrocities like those portrayed in the videos and photos obtained by ABC News were committed by Iraqi forces who receive our aid, or militias who they operate alongside of, we can turn a blind eye and ignore it.

“I know that ABC News has invested much time and effort in this investigation.  If their information is accurate, the burden is on the Iraqi Government to punish those involved and on the Departments of State and Defense to insist that they do so and to offer support in investigating and punishing those involved as the law calls for.  Otherwise the Iraqi units involved should be deemed ineligible for U.S. aid. 

“A policy of the ends justifying the means, no matter how outrageous the conduct, is beneath our great nation and its people, and it is doomed to fail.  We have to show that we and those we support abide by the laws, unlike the terrorists who have no respect for the rule of law.”

# # # # #

Press Contact

Press Contact
David Carle: 202-224-3693