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Congresswoman Sara Jacobs Speaks on House Floor on Amendment to Ensure Human Rights Vetting for Section 127e Department of Defense Programs

Washington, D.C., September 24, 2021 | Will McDonald (202-845-4864)

Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (D-CA-53) spoke on the House floor today on her amendment to the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to provide human rights vetting to Section 127e Department of Defense programs. This amendment was adopted by the House and added to the overall bill, which passed the House and now goes to the Senate.

During her remarks, Congresswoman Jacobs stated, “The United States should not provide support to foreign military units that repeatedly commit human rights violations. Yet in Burkina Faso, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, military units backed by the United States did just that — terrorizing civilians in the name of security. Backing these units is supposed to be against U.S. law, but for decades there has been one big loophole...That’s why I brought forward an amendment to the NDAA to close this loophole and was proud to see it adopted with bipartisan support.”

Overall, Congresswoman Jacobs secured four priority amendments to the NDAA during floor consideration this week. The Jacobs amendments prioritize human rights, increase oversight of security assistance, and address the root causes of conflict abroad.

The Jacobs amendment #202 applies human rights vetting on foreign forces and irregular forces for U.S. special operations support to combat terrorism. This closes a significant loophole and strengthens the U.S. commitment to human rights by increasing vetting measures to ensure that recipients of U.S. support have not committed gross human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law. This amendment passed in the En Bloc #2 package on Thursday and was endorsed by eight civil society organizations and co-sponsored by Reps. Tom Malinowski, Barbara Lee, Rashida Tlaib, Ro Khanna, and Jesús “Chuy” Garcia. 

Congresswoman Jacobs’ remarks as delivered: (Video: Twitter, YouTube)

Thank you, Mister Speaker.

The United States should not provide support to foreign military units that repeatedly commit human rights violations -- that should be clear.

Yet in Burkina Faso, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, military units backed by the United States did just that. Terrorizing civilians in the name of security. 

Backing these units is supposed to be against U.S. law, but for decades there has been one big loophole. 

And it’s called Section 127 echo — one specific DoD authority that authorizes support for these units without any human rights vetting.

This loophole means that we have no assurances that our operatives aren’t working with partners who are in direct conflict with our values.

And if we are truly focused on countering violent extremism, we have to acknowledge that abuses by security forces often propel victims into violent extremist groups.

That’s why I brought forward an amendment to the NDAA to close this loophole and I’m proud to say it was adopted with bipartisan support.

My amendment ensures that we aren’t contributing to the very same problems we aim to solve, and it sends a clear message: when it comes to human rights, there cannot be loopholes, exemptions, or exceptions.

And with that, I yield back.