WASHINGTON (WRIC) – Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-Henrico) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) sponsor legislation that would give Congress increased control over arms deals with countries that violate international rights standards of man.
The bill was announced by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 20, and a Senate version has been under consideration by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since September 2020.
Billed as the SAFEGUARD Act, the legislation would prevent the United States from signing arms contracts or military contracts with any country whose State Department has credible information that it “has committed or is committing genocide or violations of international humanitarian law â.
The law would also subject certain arms sales to congressional scrutiny when the host country’s government has recently been overthrown in a coup or if government security forces engage in human rights abuses.
“I believe our nation has a national security obligation and a moral imperative to prevent US weapons and military equipment from being used to commit human rights violations,” Representative Spanberger told our station. Sister WRIC in an email earlier this week.
The issue of human rights and arms exports has become a hot topic after the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of a Saudi commando group. The murder was later revealed to have been ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, but former President Donald Trump took no action against Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has also been criticized for the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, including children, in Yemen as a civil war continues to rage between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels. Prior to his election, President Joe Biden pledged to take action against Saudi human rights abuses, but in July he met Ben Salman’s brother, reaffirming the US commitment to cooperate with the kingdom. .
âThe humanitarian crisis in Yemen – exacerbated by the Trump administration’s transfer of offensive weapons that supported Saudi-led coalition attacks on non-combatants – is a prime example of where our government has failed. ‘didn’t use good judgment,’ Spanberger said.
In a statement to 8News, a spokesperson for Senator Kaine said congressional committees would assess respect for human rights based on international treaties the United States has signed and ratified, such as the Convention Against Torture.
But this provision could raise difficult questions for Kaine and Spanberger regarding Israeli military aid.
A US State Department report released in 2020 detailed allegations of legally permitted torture of prisoners, politically motivated and arbitrary arrests, and indefinite detention without trial of some prisoners held under the “Illegal Combatants Act”. ” from the country.
In July, a UN report to the Human Rights Council found that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, supported by the Israeli government, constituted a war crime in violation of the Rome Statute of 1998. The United States are not signatories to the Rome Statute.
Kaine and Spanberger are both supporters of Israel, and Spanberger and Kaine have both accepted campaign support from Jstreet, a conciliatory pro-Israel lobby group that supports a two-state solution.
The Times of Israel also noted that Kaine was a key vote to ensure that funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system was included in a defense bill passed in 2014.
In the past, Jstreet has urged lawmakers to ensure that military aid is not used to commit human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza. They support an end-use surveillance policy, which is included as a provision of the SAFEGUARD Act, but oppose any attempt by the United States to pressure to end the illegal occupation of the West Bank.
Ultimately, the bill would not force Congress to take action on arms deals that could contribute to human rights violations in foreign countries. It would simply require, according to Spanberger, that “all of this sales and service [be] considered by Congress.
Both Kaine and Spanberger have been consistent advocates of reaffirming the role of Congress in foreign policy. Earlier this year, Kaine introduced a resolution in the Senate that would revoke a sweeping authorization to use military force in place since 2002. Spanberger sponsored a similar bill to repeal a dating military force authorization against Iraq. from 1991.
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