U.S. Engagement to Promote Human Rights in the Security Sector

Promoting human rights is an integral component of advancing our core national security goals.

Around the world, violent extremism has blossomed in response to public discontent with state repression and decades of abuses by security forces. Da’esh, for example, found fertile recruiting ground in places like Syria, where governance had broken down and security forces exploited and abused the very population they were bound to protect. Da’esh found additional opportunities to spread its hatred to other nations by playing on similar frustrations elsewhere. 

Our security sector assistance programs that help our partners adhere to rule of law and protect human rights strengthen the capacity of our partner forces and improves their operational effectiveness. Citizens trust security services when they are honest, fair, disciplined, and held accountable when something goes wrong. Rights-respecting forces win public trust and cooperation, providing an essential tool to countering terrorism and violent extremism.

The “Leahy Law” is one important element of our efforts to work with accountable security forces. In collaboration with the Department of Defense, the State Department coordinates the process through which the U.S. government vets candidates for U.S.-funded security training programs to ensure that training does not go to units or individuals that have committed gross violations of human rights. In the vast majority of cases, we find that our candidates have clean records. However, when the vetting process uncovers credible evidence that an individual or unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, we withhold assistance. We also work with countries on remediation, the process by which we restore a unit’s eligibility for assistance after the government takes effective steps to bring those responsible for human rights violations to justice. In this way, we achieve the Leahy Law’s fundamental goal of accountability. 

We have also successfully used legislation to encourage our security partners to improve their professional conduct. For example, we implement the Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA), which requires the Secretary of State to identify countries that have governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit and use child soldiers. We use this list to call attention to countries of concern; and, in some cases, to sanction them by withholding some or all of our military assistance. We see that this effort influences our partners, particularly when we combine positive, diplomatic support. 

In 2011, we saw a positive change in Chad when the government signed a joint action plan with the United Nations outlining concrete steps toward ending its recruitment and use of child soldiers. This was in part due to international pressure, including a CSPA listing. In 2014, Chad fulfilled its action plan, and we verified that children were no longer serving in the Chadian National Army. As a valuable partner in U.S. efforts to promote stability and counter terrorism in the region, Chad’s termination of its use of child soldiers was an important success in support of our national security policy and improved public trust in the Chadian military.

Human rights and civilian protection issues play a critical role in our national security deliberations. Through the Leahy Law, the Child Solder Protection Act, and a host of other policies and laws, we advance our security interests by protecting the human rights of all individuals. The U.S. government will continue to provide the tools necessary to encourage our partners to meet civilian security needs and counter transnational threats in a sustainable, rights-respecting way, while contributing to regional and international security and stability.

About the author: Jonathan Collet is the Public Diplomacy Strategist for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. Department of State.

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Comments

Comments

Samuel C.
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United States
December 21, 2016
Violent extremism is "blossoming" around the world because the US, the UK, and their pet Saudis and Qataris had the brilliant idea of funding it and arming it in order to cause trouble for governments that were insufficiently submissive.
A security force soldier patrols near an international border area. [AP Photo]
Posted by Jonathan Collett
December 19, 2016

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