Sen. Leahy Reaffirms Commitment to Human Rights in Mexico

Dec 4, 2014
10:20 PM

Yesterday Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) issued the following statement regarding his stance on Mexico and human rights. According to #USTired2 organizers, Leahy’s office released this statement after individuals associated with the December 3 actions visited his office.

Here is what Leahy’s Twitter profile shared yesterday afternoon:

This is Leahy’s statement:

There are two laws —both of which I wrote and defend each year against attempts by some in Congress and the Pentagon to weaken them— which tie a portion of our aid to foreign governments, and to Mexico specifically, on protection of human rights and punishment of those who violate human rights. The Mexican Army and police have a long history of violating human rights with impunity, and no one in Congress has worked harder than I have to keep our aid to Mexico from going to those who commit such crimes. I will continue to do that.

The statement referred to the Leahy Law, which the Vermont senator authored in 1997. Here is what Amnesty International has to say about that law:

What is the Leahy Law? 
The Leahy Law (also known as the Leahy Amendment) prohibits most types of U.S. foreign aid and Defense Department training programs from going to foreign security, military and police units credibly alleged to have committed human rights violations. If the foreign government brings the responsible members of the unit to justice, U.S. foreign aid can be resumed. The Leahy Law is named after Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a Congressional human rights champion and the chief sponsor of the law.

Fact: The Leahy Law is law, not a policy guideline. It originated in 1996 from efforts to control U.S. military aid to Colombia during the period in time when Plan Colombia was materializing and Amnesty International and many other organizations had been documenting egregious violations committed by the Colombian military and police. It is different from other human rights legislation because it does not require a decision to cut off aid to an entire country—which the U.S. government is often reluctant to do – rather it tackles the challenge by prohibiting aid solely from the offending units.

Fiction:The Leahy Law solves the human rights problems of foreign military and police units. Interestingly, the Leahy Law places the burden on both the U.S. government and human rights organizations to document and compile information regarding alleged abuses—but the law and associated vetting process is not perfect, nor will it alone solve the human rights problems of foreign security units.

#USTired2 organizers also told us tonight that 5,000 petition signatures were delivered yesterday to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The petition, developed in partnership with and SOA Watch, is calling for Menendez to hold a hearing to review U.S. funding to Mexico.

This week the State Department offered little details on whether it will pressure Mexico about the Ayotzinapa crisis, which has led to massive mobilizations in Mexico.