The Human Rights of Defense Exports

When the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961 was passed, it included Section 502B(a)(1) asserting that a principal goal of U.S. foreign policy “shall be to promote the increased observance of internationally recognized human rights by all countries.”[1] Further, Section 502B(a)(2) confirms that absent the exercise of a presidential certification of, “extraordinary circumstances,” no security assistance (“sales of defense articles or services.”[2]) may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.[3]

The first six (6) months of the Biden Administration has seen an increase emphasis on human rights concerns while applying for export authorizations, specifically export authorizations tied to security assistance programs. Many of these authorizations are staffed to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). While there has been an uptick in DRL’s oversight, this trend began during the Trump Administration when President Trump signed a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) on April 19, 2018. Section 3(d) of the memorandum requires that U.S. arms transfer decisions will be based on the “human rights and international humanitarian law.”[4] Meaning, that if the U.S. government has knowledge that “the transferred arms will be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, or certain human rights violations in breach of the Geneva Conventions of 1949” [5], then the authorization will not be granted.

While to many, human rights are an additional barrier to facilitating defense exports and can be a nuisance, it is a necessary component of defense trade that is not going anywhere, and likely will become more prevalent in the future. Human rights are a tenet of both democracy and U.S. foreign policy goals.



[1] (FAA; 22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.; 22 U.S.C. 2304(B)(a)(1))

[2] (22 U.S.C. 2304(B)(d)(2))

[3] (22 U.S.C. 2304(B)(a)(2))

[4] See National Security Presidential Memorandum/NSPM–10, National Security Presidential Memorandum on United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, (April 19, 2018).

[5] See National Security Presidential Memorandum/NSPM–10, National Security Presidential Memorandum on United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, (April 19, 2018).

Categories:
Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.