Pentagon looks to aid foreign troops that violate human rights

The Pentagon is increasingly training and equipping local security services to combat militants in their countries. A 16-year-old law that bars American aid to foreign security forces that violate human rights is drawing unusual fire from some top military commanders who say it undermines their ability to train the troops to fight militants.  The Leahy amendment, a 1997 provision to a foreign aid bill named after its author, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, which bars the United States from providing training or equipment to foreign troops or units who commit “gross human rights violations” like rape, murder or torture.
Human rights advocates have hailed the law as instrumental in preventing human rights violators from receiving American taxpayer-financed assistance.
Admiral McRaven and other top officers say that they support the spirit of the Leahy amendment, but that changes in the law two years ago aimed at strengthening its enforcement have complicated their ability to train and equip foreign security forces.
In 2011, 1,766 individuals and units from 46 countries, out of a total of about 200,000 cases, were denied assistance because of human rights concerns, according to the State Department.
“The nations whose militaries have had human rights violations perhaps are the ones that need U.S. engagement the most,” said Vice Adm. Charles J. Leidig Jr., the Africa Command’s military deputy.

“…they need to show they are serious about accountability. If not, we are wasting American taxpayers’ money and risk prolonging the abusive conduct that we seek to prevent.” Said Patrick Lehy

In 2011, the Guatemalan government convicted and sentenced to long prison terms four members of the Kabiles, a security unit deeply implicated in human rights abuses during that country’s four-decade civil war. Based on those efforts and the government’s commitment to reorganize the Special Forces unit, the United States resumed aid to the unit.

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