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Issues: Law Vetting

Leahy Law

Leahy law vetting is a process through which the U.S. government vets U.S. assistance to foreign security forces, as well as 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, consistent with U.S. law and policy.  This obligation to vet foreign security forces can be found in section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA).

Leahy Law News

Fact Sheet
Joint Policy on Remediation and the Resumption of Assistance that has been Restricted Under the State and DoD Leahy Laws
Aug 24, 2016 | Department of State; Department of Defense

Joint Department of State - Department of Defense (DoD) Policy on Remediation and the Resumption of Assistance that has been Restricted Under the State and DoD Leahy Laws 


What is U.S. law and policy regarding assistance to foreign security forces that have committed gross violations of human rights?

  • Consistent with the State and DoD Leahy laws (Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, and 10 U.S.C. section ...Read More
Fact Sheet
Leahy Fact Sheet
Mar 3, 2016 | U.S. Department of State - Washington, D.C.
There are two “Leahy laws,” known as such due to Senator Leahy’s authorship, one for the State Department and one for the Department of Defense (DoD). Beginning in 1998, Congress included in annual State Department appropriations acts language prohibiting assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights (GVHR). ...Read More
Assistant Secretary Malinowski on Helping Partner Nations Prevent and Redress Human Rights Violations
Feb 11, 2016 | Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski
Almost 20 years ago, the Congress adopted the law that bears Senator Leahy’s name. In its inspiration, the law drew from a moral ideal: that the United States should never be complicit in human rights abuses, like murder, rape, torture, by aiding foreign security forces that commit such abuses. But in its design, the law was extremely practical. It restricted assistance only to individual units that commit such abuses, thus allowing us to single out those most responsible for the problem without cutting off cooperation with entire countries or their militaries. And it opened a path to restoring assistance where credible efforts are made to investigate abuses and to hold perpetrators accountable, thus creating an incentive to work for remediation. This combination of principle and pragmatism is, I think, the secret to the Leahy Law’s success. ...Read More
Human Rights and Democracy Trends in Africa
Dec 7, 2015 | Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Steven J. Feldstein

I’m pleased to be here, I’d like to thank Elizabeth Barad and the New York Bar for inviting me to deliver remarks and answer some of your questions.

I’m here tonight to talk about human rights and democracy trends in Africa. What I can say with certainty is that in the 20 months I have been on the job, no day has been the same, and every week has been unpredictable. Consider the following:

Early ...Read More

U.S. Statement at the UPR of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Nov 5, 2014 | U.S. Delegation to the UN Human Rights Council

Adoption of the UPR WG Report for The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Delivered by Lisa Brodey

The United States welcomes the return of the delegation from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Council and appreciates the opportunity to comment on the final Working Group report from Afghanistan’s Universal Periodic Review.

We welcome Afghanistan’s acceptance of recommendations to ...Read More

Press Release
Further U.S. Efforts to Protect Human Rights in Uganda
Nov 5, 2014 | Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs on the National Security Council, Grant Harris; Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council, Stephen Pomper

Our hopes for a more peaceful and just world depend on respect for the rights and dignity of all people. It is for this reason that our foreign policy champions human rights and opposes violence and discrimination that targets people because of who they are and whom they love. President Obama's groundbreaking Presidential Memorandum of December 6, 2011 reflected this commitment by directing the federal government to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance ...Read More

Background Conference Call on the President's Commencement Address at West Point
Oct 31, 2014 | The White House

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll just say a few things and then take your questions. So in the President’s speech today he was focused on defining, as we come out of a period dominated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, what the next phase of our foreign policy is, both as it relates to our counterterrorism mission and also our broader role in the world. You heard him speak at length about that. I’ll only ...Read More

Boko Haram: The Growing Threat to Schoolgirls in Nigeria and Beyond
Oct 21, 2014 | Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Dr. Sarah Sewall

Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss Nigeria’s struggle against Boko Haram, one of the most lethal terrorist groups in Africa today.

Over a month ago, the world was shocked when Boko Haram kidnapped over 250 young women from a secondary school in Chibok. The United States swiftly joined the effort to help the Government of Nigeria safely recover the hostages.

President Obama ...Read More

Ambassador Power Remarks for the University of Vermont Commencement
Oct 31, 2014 | U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Samantha Power

(Applause) President Sullivan, trustees, faculty, alumni, parents and especially the incredible members of the class of 2014 – Good morning and Hallelujah! (Applause)

I am most honored to be among you, to share the stage with my fellow honorees - such generous and brilliant trailblazers. I am truly humbled to be among them and to share this glorious day with you, my classmates. Today is a day of celebration. Can we get another rousing ...Read More

Ten Things the United States Is Doing To Counter Boko Haram
Oct 30, 2014 |

[caption id="attachment_40535" align="aligncenter" width="570" caption="Nigerians Hold a Vigil for the Girls Abducted by Boko Haram - See more at: http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/05/16/ten-things-united-states-doing-counter-boko-haram#sthash.yfCnWjA7.dpuf"]Nigerians Hold a Vigil for the Girls Abducted by Boko Haram - See more at: http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/05/16/ten-things-united-states-doing-counter-boko-haram#sthash.yfCnWjA7.dpuf[/caption]

Nigeria has the continent’s largest population and largest economy, and it plays a vital role ...Read More


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    An Overview of the Leahy Vetting Process: Law, Policy, and Process
    - April 2016 update