Deconstructing the Leahy Law: Fact vs Fiction

Photo Credit: Amnesty International

Photo Credit: Amnesty International

This post was written in collaboration with Nate Smith, of the AIUSA Military, Security and Police (MSP) Coordination group.

There are some misconceptions currently floating around about the U.S. government’s Leahy Law and we want to set the record straight on a few things. The Leahy Law is a powerful yet often-overlooked tool to help prevent the U.S. government from directly arming human rights violators in the ranks of foreign security forces and to help the U.S. avoid complicity in the commission of human rights violations.

So how can you distill fact from fiction? Allow us to deconstruct some of the facts, fictions and misconceptions about the Leahy Law. And expect more in the coming weeks about this important law, and other instruments available to the U.S. and global community to prevent arming human rights perpetrators.


Will Obama Cut Ties With Indonesian Torture?

By Carole Marzolf, Indonesia Country Specialist for Amnesty International

Filep Karma, imprisoned in Indonesida for raising a flag

President Obama will visit his childhood home of Indonesia in early November in his first official visit since taking office.  While his visit may bring back fond memories of his youth, there is nothing fond about the years of rampant human rights abuses carried out by Indonesia’s Special Forces that are about to receive renewed support from the US.

Indonesia may be perceived as a country gaining clout in the international arena but it is wrecked by massive corruption and its security forces get away with torture in total impunity, and those with opposing views may find themselves muzzled and thrown in jail.

As President Obama readies for his visit to Indonesia, join us in asking your Representative to support House Resolution 1355 calling for an end to human rights abuses and freedom for prisoners of conscience in Indonesia.

Although since the fall of President Suharto in May 1998 Indonesia saw a period of rapid reform, twelve years on, the process seems to have severely crumbled away.  According to Transparency International which measures corruption perceptions worldwide, Indonesia ranked 110th in 2010 on an equal footing with Gabon, Senegal or Bolivia. As a comparison, the United States ranked 22nd, while Malaysia ranked 56th and China 78th.

According to an Amnesty International report published last year, Indonesia’s security forces – both the police and military – regularly carry out horrific human rights abuses including torture.  Most recently, the Indonesian government acknowledged that men torturing Papuans in a video that circulated online are from the military.


Sec. Clinton's shot at uncovering justice for Sri Lanka's war crimes

Originally posted on HuffingtonPost.comThis post is the first of our Sri Lanka’s visit to the U.S. Series.

In the context of Amnesty International’s global campaign to establish an international, independent investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, we are currently closely following the US visit of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Professor G.L. Peiris.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Professor G.L. Peiris, is currently on a public relations tour through the United States, touting his country as the new paradise for foreign investment, and dismissing war crimes allegations on the way. This week, he even took to the Huffington Post website to present his questionable worldview: “A Year After Defeating Terrorism, Sri Lanka Embodies Hope and Change“.

One year after Sri Lanka’s civil war came to a bloody end, the evidence that both parties to the conflict committed serious human rights violations, including war crimes, continues to pile up. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and the US State Department have compiled extensive reports on the human rights violations that were committed by both the Sri Lankan army and the armed Tamil Tigers. To date, not one single individual has been held accountable for the crimes committed.

Consequently, Sri Lankan government officials have had difficulties hiding their self-confidence following their successful attempts (so far) to evade official international scrutiny. (This confidence is further boosted by articles such as a recent New York Times piece that declares Sri Lanka as the number one tourist destination to visit in 2010. The New York Times article is now part of the official information package that is handed out by Sri Lankan embassy staff at events where the Foreign Minister is speaking).

Push to lift Leahy law restrictions

This new self-confidence became most visible for me during a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), when Minister Peiris openly stated that one objective of his US visit is to change US policy that bars US training of the Sri Lankan military under the Leahy amendment. The Leahy amendment prohibits U.S. security assistance to foreign military or security units, which are believed to have committed gross human rights violations.