U.S. no longer tolerant of alleged IDF human rights violations

Explainer: First time application of Leahy Law on IDF indicates shift in policy; law requires suspension of military aid to foreign force found in violation, until local authorities take disciplinary measures against perpetrators of alleged crimes

After the last obstacle was removed and the U.S. House of Representatives approved the unprecedented $15 billion in military aid to Israel, the White House demonstrated what strings may have been attached, when according to reports, for the first-time sanctions could be imposed on a battalion in the IDF.
U.S. State Department officials briefed reporters that Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to announce American funding would not be extended to the ultra-Orthodox combat unit Netzah Yehuda Battalion.
According to the State Department, these soldiers are systematically harassing and violating the human rights of Palestinians on the West Bank and are therefore in violation of American law.
The sanctions will reportedly include, among other things, a prohibition on delivering American weapons to the battalion, and its soldiers and commanders will be barred from joint drills of the IDF and the American military.
Blinken said a decision has been made and will be put into effect within days. “I think you’re referring to the so-called Leahy Law and our work under that,” Blinken told a reporter who asked about the upcoming sanctions. So, this is a very important law, and it’s one that we apply across the board. I think it’s fair to say that you’ll see results very soon.”
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אנתוני בלינקן
אנתוני בלינקן
Antony Blinken
(Photo: Reuters)
The 1997 law by former Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, prohibits the United States from providing military aid or training to security forces, the military, or the police when there is reliable information about human rights abuses.
The officials at State, said the matter had been under consideration for a while, even before the war and that the extremist rhetoric of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, contributed to the decision.
To enforce the law, U.S. embassies around the world and the relevant arms of the State Department must compile information and consider testimonies from human rights groups or from media reports, about the conduct of local security forces who are recipients of U.S. aid as they search for any blatant violations of human rights.
In those violations the State Department includes extreme conduct such as murder of innocents, torture, abduction and rape as a tactic of war. If there is credible information that a certain unit is involved in such conduct, the aid is suspended until the relevant government takes necessary disciplinary steps to bring those involved to justice.
The Leahy Law was enacted in the past in Turkey, Lebanon, Indonesia, Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria and St. Lucia.
The State Department did not specify what would be considered "credible" information, other than to say it must meet the standard of the U. S. courts. Officials, therefore, would rely on a variety of sources, including annual reports by human rights groups, records of government and non-governmental organizations and media reports.
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פעילות לוחמי צה"ל מגדוד נצח יהודה בראמללה
פעילות לוחמי צה"ל מגדוד נצח יהודה בראמללה
Soldiers from the Netzach Yehuda battalion deployed on the West Bank
Over the year, the law had been criticized by American military commanders who said it was applied to broadly and on occasion, interferes with training programs in foreign forces, on the other hand, rights groups and administration officials claim the law is not enforced enough and cite U.S. support for foreign militaries such as in Cambodia, despite documented human rights violations there.
An article published in the UKs Guardian newspaper last January cited what the publication claimed were internal State Department documents outlining methods used by successive administrations to protect Israel from such laws so as not to disrupt the supply of military aid, despite accusations that the laws were being violated.
In 2016, Senator Leahy and ten other Democrat members of Congress wrote then Secretary of State John Kerry demanding an investigation of Israel be launched after suspicions were raised that Israeli security forces, "executed" Palestinians without trial.

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