Consistent with U.S. law and policy, the Department of State vets its assistance to foreign security forces, as well as certain Department of Defense training programs, to ensure that recipients have not committed gross human rights abuses. When the vetting process uncovers credible evidence that an individual or unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, U.S. assistance is withheld.
The obligation to vet Department of State (DoS) assistance and Department of Defense (DoD)-funded training programs for foreign security forces units is in section 620M (a.k.a., the Leahy amendment) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and a comparable provision in the annual DoD Appropriations Act. While the DoS legislation applies to all “assistance” under the FAA and the Arms Export Control Act, the DoD law is specific to “training programs” funded under Defense Department Appropriations Acts.
Security forces units subject to Leahy vetting generally include foreign militaries, reserves, police, homeland security forces such as border guards or customs police, prison guards, and other units or individual members of units authorized to use force.
The Department determines if derogatory information is credible on a case-by-case basis. For information to be deemed “credible,” it is not required to meet the same standard as would apply to admit evidence in a U.S. court of law, but consideration is given to the source, the details available, the applicability to the individual or unit, the circumstances in the relevant country, the availability of corroborating information, and other factors.
Text of Leahy Laws
Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended: Section 620M “Limitation on Assistance to Security Forces”
(a) IN GENERAL. – 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.
(b) EXCEPTION. –The prohibition in subsection (a) shall not apply if the Secretary determines and reports to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committees on Appropriations that the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.
(c) DUTY TO INFORM. – In the event that funds are withheld from any unit pursuant to this section, the Secretary of State shall promptly inform the foreign government of the basis for such action and shall, to the maximum extent practicable, assist the foreign government in taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces to justice.
(d) CREDIBLE INFORMATION. The Secretary shall establish, and periodically update, procedures to
(1) ensure that for each country the Department of State has a current list of all security force units receiving United States training, equipment, or other types of assistance;
(2) facilitate receipt by the Department of State and United States embassies of information from individuals and organizations outside the United States Government about gross violations of human rights by security force units;
(3) routinely request and obtain such information from the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and other United States Government sources;
(4) ensure that such information is evaluated and preserved;
(5) ensure that when vetting an individual for eligibility to receive United States training the individual’s unit is also vetted;
(6) seek to identify the unit involved when credible information of a gross violation exists but the identity of the unit is lacking; and
(7) make publicly available, to the maximum extent practicable, the identity of those units for which no assistance shall be furnished pursuant to subsection (a).
DOD Appropriations Act for FY 2012 Sec. 8058:
“(a) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to support any training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken.
(b) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to conduct any training program referred to in subsection (a), full consideration is given to all credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by foreign security forces.
(c) The Secretary of Defense, after consultation with the Secretary of State, may waive the prohibition in subsection (a) if he determines that such waiver is required by extraordinary circumstances.
(d) Not more than 15 days after the exercise of any waiver under subsection (c), the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report to the congressional defense committees describing the extraordinary circumstances, the purpose and duration of the training program, the United States forces and the foreign security forces involved in the training program, and the information relating to human rights violations that necessitates the waiver.”