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 information 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 Leahy vetting process is as follows:
1. The appropriate U.S. embassy enters those individuals or units nominated for training or assistance into an internal DoS database, called the International Vetting and Security Tracking (INVEST) system, and initially vets the individuals or units using governmental, nongovernmental and media resources on human rights abuses in the relevant country. These resources include the DoS Country Reports on Human Rights, U.S. government agency records, including consular records and embassy files and databases, NGO human rights reports and information and media articles. Most embassies also undertake checks with local police and government for other derogatory information. In appropriate cases, embassies may interview individual victims where there are indications that government forces have been involved in a gross human rights violation.
Should any credible derogatory information be uncovered in local vetting, the embassy may deny or suspend the individual or unit from assistance, or seek guidance from Washington. INVEST creates a permanent record of any finding of derogatory information, human rights-related or otherwise, and posts upload the specific information for further review as the vetting process continues.
2. In Washington, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and regional bureaus receive the results of home country vetting through the INVEST system after posts complete their checks and submit results. Every individual or unit from a country of human rights concern who is not denied or suspended by post is also subject to vetting by both DRL and the relevant regional bureau through additional information sources in Washington. If any Washington vetter finds credible derogatory unclassified information, they enter the information into INVEST and a review of that information by DRL and the relevant regional bureau occurs. If all vetters agree that the derogatory information is credible, and the violation or issue is of sufficient severity to prohibit training or assistance in accordance with the Leahy amendment or other U.S. laws and policies, the individual or unit is deemed ineligible and the decision is recorded in INVEST. In order to clarify the facts in situations where gross human rights violations appear to have occurred, the Department may seek additional information from credible sources, including local and international NGOs, witnesses and victims.
3. If there is need for further review of the negative information, DRL assembles a broader team of State Department representatives and may request further information from the home country embassy. Until a decision is reached, the assistance in question remains on hold. The State Department then makes a decision on the case and assistance is either denied or authorized; the result is recorded in INVEST. If agreement cannot be reached before the training is scheduled to start, the candidate will not be trained. Posts are automatically notified of final Leahy vetting results through INVEST.
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.”
The U.S. Government will support Egypt and the Egyptian people with their needs for economic recovery, free and fair elections, and overall stability. In the short-term, our assistance efforts will leverage existing funding to produce quick, concrete results and have a tangible impact in support of Egypt’s economic recovery and democratic transition. We recognize that a prosperous and democratic Egypt, buoyed by economic growth and a strong private sector, can be an anchor of stability for the Middle East and North Africa.
Long-term Partnership with the Egyptian People: Working together over the years, we are particularly gratified that we have been able to help Egyptians in practical ways. We are proud of over thirty years of U.S. assistance to Egypt, in which the United States has:
Contributed massive resources to one of the most successful and renowned health programs worldwide, resulting in a 15-year extension of the lifespan of Egyptians, a decrease in the maternal mortality rate by over 50% and the child mortality rate by over 70%, and the eradication of polio;
Provided clean drinking water and sanitation to the city of Cairo and other metropolitan areas where no such service was previously available (the sewer system we constructed in Cairo constitutes the largest construction project in the world);
Built more than 2,000 schools and stocked 39,000 school libraries, and helped Egypt double literacy levels;
Sent thousands of Egyptians to the United States for advanced university studies;
Invested $1.8 billion in power sector projects accounting for roughly one-third of total present capacity; and
Invested billions in technical and financial assistance to modernize Egypt’s economy to create new jobs in fields like high-technology and manufacturing. This has directly contributed to Egypt’s status as a top ten country in the World Bank Doing Business report four out of the last five years.
Renewed Bilateral and Multilateral Support: The United States requested $250 million in economic support funds and $1.3 billion in foreign military financing from Congress in FY 2012, in support of a revitalized partnership with Egypt and Egyptians.
The United States also provides critical support to Egypt, together with our international partners, through our leadership at international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, African Development Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, where we have repeatedly used our leadership and contributions to mobilize billions of dollars in ongoing support for Egypt.
Immediate Economic and Political Transition: In addition to ongoing U.S.-funded economic and political reform programs in Egypt, the United States has made available a total of $165 million for near-term assistance to support projects that generate jobs and economic growth and support Egyptian efforts to secure a democratic future.
To address immediate economic needs arising from recent events, the United States expects to provide technical assistance, capital, and advocacy training to support small business and entrepreneurs; sustainable job creation focused on, but not limited to, the tourism/hospitality sector and infrastructure; and education, management skills, and vocational training to help get people back to work.
The United States is providing support to Egyptian and U.S. organizations working to promote respect for human rights and political freedom, building a free and fair elections process, advance media professionalism and political party development, and increase youth and women’s participation. We will ensure that a significant portion of our assistance will directly support Egyptian civic organizations’ efforts to promote political and economic reform, expand civic awareness, and promote government transparency.
OPIC Support for Investment: OPIC will provide up to $2 billion in financial support to encourage private sector investments in the Middle East and North Africa, building partnerships between U.S. and Arab businesses to promote growth, and regional job creation. OPIC will prioritize small and medium-sized enterprises and is prepared to grant proposed projects “fast track” approval status (provided due diligence requirements are met) to mobilize capital quickly.
ExIm Letters of Credit: The U.S. Export Import Bank has approved $80 million in insurance cover to support letters of credit issued by Egyptian financial institutions, showing our support for the Egyptian economic recovery.
USTDA Business Forum: USTDA will host a June forum in Washington, D.C., bringing together a wide variety of Egyptian and U.S. public and private sector representatives to explore trade, investment and commercial opportunities. The Forum will encourage enhanced trade and sustainable economic development in Egypt, focusing on energy, information and communication technology, transportation, and agriculture.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your time and your full support to our country when we are experiencing such a difficult situation. So, 10 days have passed since the disaster hit. What is your understanding of the situation as of now, and how would you characterize the Japanese response overall?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say how deeply sympathetic the United States is to everything that is happening in your country, and to express my condolence and sympathy for those who have lost loved ones, family members, friends, and colleagues. It’s an almost unimaginable disaster that you have dealt with, with great resilience, great spirit. And it’s been inspiring to see how the Japanese people have responded under the most difficult of historic experiences.
And as you know, we have tried to offer whatever assistance we could. We have sent many people, experts, recovery workers, humanitarian assistance to Japan, and we will continue to do so. I want the Japanese people to know that the American people support you and we will be there, not just for now but in the months and years ahead.
And I think it’s hard for anyone who has been outside of the vortex of the disaster zones in Japan to have any impression other than admiration to see how people have coped, to see how everyone has pulled together. And we can only hope that this third part of this unprecedented disaster that is at the nuclear power plant gets under control, gets brought into a manageable situation soon.
QUESTION: On the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the ongoing situation, although it is still very concerning and it seems there is mounting frustration somewhat on the U.S. side, given the announcement advising U.S. citizens to stay 50 miles away from the nuclear plant, it seems there’s a skepticism as well as frustration. Does the U.S. Government see any problems with how TEPCO and the Japanese Government are handling the situation? What more would you like to see done or would you like to see be done differently?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me make the point that because nothing like this has ever happened before, any of the advice or suggestions that the United States or others have made should be seen in light of our effort to try to be helpful. There is no book you can pull down from the shelf which says you have a 9.0 earthquake, a horrible tsunami, what do you do next at your nuclear reactors. And we have provided the best expert advice we know of and we’ve sent nuclear experts to Japan working side-by-side with your government and private sector officials.
And I think everyone is pursuing the same goal. We may have slightly different views about how to measure the danger or measure the impact, but those are not really in any way undermining the ongoing work that we’re doing together. And it is such an overwhelming task to try to figure out how to handle what’s going on in the reactors. So the United States has applied some of what we would do under a comparable situation, but we’ve never been in a comparable situation. So we’re doing the best we can to offer you our expert advice, but of course, we support you in what you are doing.
QUESTION: It is reported that the FDA is going to announce an import ban soon on the Japanese agricultural products. How would this impact trade and diplomatic relations? Can you actually confirm this is happening? And if so, how would you plan to resolve this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I cannot confirm it. I do not know that it is happening. I know that Japanese officials have been very concerned about the food supply because, as we have seen in other nuclear incidents, that is an area that we have to pay particular attention to. So I can’t speak as to what the United States or any other country might do, but what is most important is making sure that we help Japan deal with the aftereffects of whatever occurred inside the reactors and that we also make sure the Japanese people have all the food that they need during this transition period.
QUESTION: So even if it happens, it’s not going to be a prolonging situation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know that it is going to happen. I don’t have any information about that. But if it were to happen, it would be as much focused on determining what is or isn’t safe for the Japanese people, not just what is safe for export.
QUESTION: When you look at the U.S.-Japanese alliance, the relationship, on the Japanese side Foreign Minister Maehara resigned, and on the State Department, Mr. Maher has been replaced after the speech on Okinawa. Now, given the double disaster, the Japanese Government will probably have to concentrate on the recovery and rebuilding. Do you think this will have any effect on the alliance? Specifically, how does this reshuffling affect the prospect of the 2+2, the Okinawa base relocation issue, and Prime Minister Kan’s visit to the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first I think that this unprecedented disaster has produced unprecedented cooperation between our two countries. In fact, our alliance, which was already strong and enduring, has become even more so. And there is going to be a lot of work ahead of us as we support you in your recovery and rebuilding efforts.
I do not think it will in any substantive way impact on all the other areas of cooperation and work that we are doing together. It may, of course, understandably, interject some delay because the first and most important responsibility that any official in your government has is to tend to the security and the needs of the Japanese people.
But in meeting with the new foreign minister, in all of the conversations that President Obama has had with Prime Minister Kan, that others of our officials have had with their counterparts, we are committed to pursuing our relationship on every level. But we too will highlight the cooperation between us in response to your needs, because I think that’s what we would do as your friend and partner and ally.
QUESTION: Thank you. My last question. Thank you so much for taking time and signing the condolence book. It means a lot to us. What would you like to tell the Japanese people at this point of time? My last question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That I cannot even imagine how difficult a period this is, but I have great confidence in the Japanese people. I have a great admiration for the resilience and the spirit that I have seen time and time again. I am very grateful for the historic generosity of Japan when others have had disasters. Japanese workers, Japanese contributions have been part of helping others, whether it was an earthquake in Haiti or any other problem. And now the world wants to help you. And I really have an absolute conviction that Japan will come back even stronger for the future.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Madam Secretary, for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. My pleasure.
OPERATOR: Welcome, and thank you all for standing by. At this time, all participants are on a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of the call. At that time, you may press *1 to ask a question. And I’d now like to turn the call over to Ms. Susan D. Page, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
Thank you, ma’am, you may begin.
MS. PAGE: Thank you very much. I wanted to let everyone know that the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Johnnie Carson met today with members of the coalition government in a very pleasant discussion on the way forward in Zimbabwe.
He recognized and applauded the economic advances that have occurred in Zimbabwe since the Global Political Agreement was signed two years ago and said that there is no doubt that the country is better off now than it was two years ago when shops were closed and inflation was rampant. He also said that Zimbabwe must now work towards making the same progress in the political sphere that it has seen in its economy. He also acknowledged that while the United States is not perfect, our strength lies in our institutions. And he encouraged the Zimbabwean coalition government to build strong institutions and to continue with political progress, because it’s political progress that will sustain economic growth.
So I’ll stop there and take questions.
OPERATOR: And at this time, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1. You’ll also be prompted to record your name. Please unmute your phone and record your name at the prompt. Once again, it is *1 for questions. One moment, please.
And we do show a question from Celia Dugger of The New York Times. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Ms. Page. How are you?
MS. PAGE: Very well. How are you?
QUESTION: I’m fine.
MS. PAGE: Good, thank you.
QUESTION: I guess I’m just curious – I mean, nothing you said is anything new. Did anything – was there anything new in the exchange? Was there a particular concern (inaudible) anything with Zimbabwe about violence that’s occurring lately, or any conversation with President Mugabe?
MS. PAGE: There was no conversation with Zimbabwe during this meeting, but obviously –
QUESTION: Mugabe, with Mugabe?
MS. PAGE: Sorry. There was no conversation directly with Mugabe, but of course, they talked about the situation in Zimbabwe, and specifically about – from our side, the American delegation talked a lot about the human rights violations, the land seizures, and particularly the recent arrest of the WOZA women from – the women who had been peacefully protesting about the constitutional process and called on senior officials, especially given that this is a coalition government, that they also need to speak out against these types of abuses and not be silent.
QUESTION: Is there (inaudible) to Zimbabweans who are outside the government critical of the – of ZANU-PF? I mean, (inaudible) hearing people say that they think that the sanctions have made – that they play into the hands of ZANU and have – in some ways, could have made the United States irrelevant to the process. I mean, what (inaudible) do you see the sanctions as still playing?
MS. PAGE: Well, first of all, we – I must say that we reject the claim that our sanctions have a broad effect on the economy of Zimbabwe or even on the ordinary – on the lives of the ordinary Zimbabwean.
The sanctions are targeted. They’re targeted towards individuals and towards a few institutions that we believe have been responsible for the policies and the actions that have led to Zimbabwe’s both economic and political decline. We do regularly review our sanctions. We remove people and institutions when we believe that they are no longer posing the same kind of threat. But frankly, as long as these violations of human rights, the lack of respect for civil and political rights of the people of Zimbabwe, as long as they continue, we really can’t lift the sanctions at this time, because people are looking to us as if we are the problem. And we are encouraging the Zimbabweans to look at themselves and address the problems that they’ve brought upon themselves.
QUESTION: So nothing really new in the exchange? Nothing –
MS. PAGE: I mean, look. The reality is they are calling for – unlike when the MDC was in the opposition, they are now also calling for the sanctions to either be removed or suspended and – largely because ZANU-PF seems to have made that a centerpiece of what they are pushing on MDC to deliver.
MS. PAGE: But the reality is this is a political agreement between three parties – between ZANU-PF, between the MDC-Tsvangirai formation, and the MDC-Mutambara formation. And we are not a party to that agreement. They can’t force us to do something that we have decided to do, either via executive order of the president or through legislation.
So – but again, we stress the fact that as long as these violations of human rights, these arbitrary arrests, continued violence and brutality continue, we’re not in a position to lift our sanctions despite how they want to characterize them. And the sanctions that we have, as I mentioned, are very specific. They’re travel bans and asset freezes. And they affect 244 individuals and institutions, companies. That’s it.
QUESTION: Do you know how many individuals – how many of the 244 are people and how many are companies?
MS. PAGE: I don’t have the details in front of me, but if you want, I can get the numbers for you.
QUESTION: All right, great.
MS. PAGE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Once again, as a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1. We’re currently showing no further questions.
MS. PAGE: Maybe I could just add, one surprise visitor in the meeting – although as I mentioned, the justice minister, Minister Chinamasa was there, Minister Misihairabwi-Mushonga from the MDC-Mutambara formation was there, Minister Mangoma and others – but the Zimbabwean ambassador to Washington also came, Ambassador Mapuranga. So that was a bit unexpected. And I think if you all will recall, he – Ambassador Mapuranga had called out Ambassador Carson during the Africa Day celebration a few months ago and disrupted a large diplomatic event for the African diplomatic corps by calling the ambassador names – by calling Ambassador Carson names. So that was an interesting show.
But the meeting was very cordial, very pleasant. Unlike I think what seems to be the view that we have suddenly reengaged with Zimbabwe, I’d like to dispel that myth. We have never stopped engaging with Zimbabwe. We have full diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. They have an ambassador here, we have an ambassador there. We have a very robust program of assistance that we give to Zimbabwe to assist the Zimbabwean people. So we have always been available to speak, to meet, to try to advance our relations. And we were pleased to see this meeting take place, but again, it was hardly a reengagement. It’s continuing engagement. So I think that that was positive.
I just wanted to mention also that this year, U.S. assistance to Zimbabwe was $300 million. This was for health services, safe drinking water, education, agriculture, social protection, and a range of other essential services in line with the priorities of the new Zimbabwean transitional government. And then – that was last year – and then in – following Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s visit to the U.S. in June of 2009, President Obama pledged an additional $73 million. This is for combating HIV and AIDS and for furthering democracy and good governance. So – and then at the same time, in recognition of progress towards macroeconomic stability, the U.S. did not oppose the restoration of Zimbabwe’s voting rights at the IMF.
So these are positive things that we’ve been doing all along, and this was a meeting that was just to further consolidate our good relations.
OPERATOR: And currently, we’re showing no questions on the phone line.
MS. PAGE: Okay.
STAFF: Well, I think that’s – I think we’ll be good to go here, then.
MS. PAGE: Okay. Well, thank you all very much. As I mentioned, it was a good meeting, very cordial, and Michelle Gavin from the National Security Council staff was also present during the meeting, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dan Baer. So I think it was a good meeting and a good delegation from the Zimbabwe side as well, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue and helping the people of Zimbabwe.
OPERATOR: This concludes today’s conference. Thank you all for participating. You may disconnect at this time.
MS. PAGE: Thank you.