Many human rights lawyers and NGOs (here, here and here for example) believe that Israel committed gross human rights violations on Good Friday, March 30, when IDF sharpshooters killed 17 Palestinians and wounded hundreds more during the beginning of the #GreatReturnMarch.
Amnesty International called on Israel to immediately end its “heavy handed, and often lethal, suppression of Palestinian demonstrations.” Peace Now said that the casualties are “an intolerable result of a trigger-happy policy.” Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times that while the military probably decided to use lethal force as a deterrent, “In my opinion they should have planned from the beginning to use minimal force and to prevent casualties.”
Even the Editorial Board of the New York Times (“Israel Courts Catastrophe in Gaza Protests” – April 2, 2018) has called for an independent and transparent investigation. (I say “even” because I’ve found the NY Times editors to be highly deferential to Israel’s point of view in the past.)
Americans should be calling for an investigation too, especially given the enormous military support the U.S. provides to Israel.
Thanks to the “Leahy amendments“, both the Department of State and Department of Defense are required to discontinue military assistance to units of foreign security forces that have engaged in “a gross violation” of human rights.
“No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d
“Of the amounts made available to the Department of Defense, none may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 10 USC 2249e
Amnesty International notes that 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. But it’s not a panacea!
In 2014, the Congressional Research Service published the “Leahy Law” Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview in 2014 available online here:
Implementation of Leahy vetting involves a complex process in the State Department and U.S. embassies overseas that determines which foreign security individuals and units are eligible to receive U.S. assistance or training.
Under the Leahy amendments, the US has reportedly cut off military assistance from security and military units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Saint Lucia.
The Congressional Research Office continues:
The State Department and U.S. embassies worldwide have developed a system that seeks to ensure that no applicable State Department assistance or DOD-funded training is provided to units or individuals in foreign security forces who have committed any gross violations of human rights. This procedure, designed to comply with the Leahy laws, is known as “vetting” or “Leahy vetting.” Primarily a State Department responsibility with input from other agencies, Leahy vetting is a multi-step process that involves staff at U.S. embassies abroad; the State Department Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) in Washington, DC, which is the lead State Department bureau for vetting; State Department regional bureaus; and other government agencies as required. The State Department policy provides for two separate processes, one for training and one for equipment and other non-training assistance.
Now, it’s time for Americans to raise our voices in support of human rights.
- Write and/or call your two senators and your member of Congress with two specific requests, and ask for follow-up on each one:
a) they should join Senator Bernie Sanders to comment publicly on recent events in Gaza;
b) they must inquire of the State Department and the Defense Department if the department’s vetting procedures have cleared or implicated Israeli military unit in the deaths and wounding of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza in the last few days.
2. Since the Leahy vetting process typically begins at the U.S. Embassy in the country where the alleged violations occurred, write the U.S. Embassy in Israel and request that they initiate a credible investigation into the shooting and killing of unarmed, peaceful Palestinian protesters on March 30, 2018 pursuant to the Leahy Law.
Ambassador David Melech Friedman
U.S. Embassy Israel
71 HaYarkon Street
Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel
3. David M. Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary , Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, using this contact form for the U.S. State Department. https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform
My message to Secretary Satterfield:
I’m writing as an American citizen concerned about the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shooting and killing unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip on Friday, March 30.
As you know, the Leahy Law says: “No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d
Israel has rejected calls by the United Nations and others to conduct an independent and transparent investigation. I urge you to initiate the vetting process required by the Leahy Law, to determine if the IDF has committed gross violations of human rights.
Lora A. Lucero