US reps request federal assessment of Israel’s compliance with int’l law

NEW YORK – Several Democratic US Representatives sent letters to President Joe Biden and the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday requesting an assessment of the State Department’s compliance with Leahy Laws and Conventional Arms Transfer policies regarding security assistance to the Israeli government. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib along with Reps. Cori Bush, André Carson, Hank Johnson, and Summer Lee submitted the letters with endorsements from a plethora of Muslim and Jewish organizations. 

“We write today regarding your Administration’s ongoing weapons transfers to the Israeli government despite considerable evidence that these transfers are flagrantly violating American and international law and being used in the commission of war crimes,” the letter to Biden said. 

The letter cites a Jan. 5 comment from White House National Security spokesman John Kirby in which he said he wasn’t aware of any assessments being done by the US government to analyze Israel’s compliance with international law. 

“In that light we write to urge you to immediately undertake an assessment as to the State Department’s compliance with your Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) policy as outlined in your own Memorandum on United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy (NSM-18) released on February 23, 2023, as well as an assessment of the Department’s compliance with the Leahy Laws as it pertains to security assistance to Israel,” according to the letter.

US REP. Rashida Tlaib (left) kisses Rep. Cori Bush as they take part in a protest outside the US Capitol in Washington last month, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. (credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

 

The “Arms Transfers and Human Rights” section of the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy states that no arms transfer will be authorized where the United States assesses it is more likely than not that the arms to be transferred will be used by the recipient to “commit, facilitate the recipients’ commission of, or to aggravate risks that the recipient will commit: genocide; crimes against humanity; grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, including attacks intentionally directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such; or other serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, including serious acts of gender‑based violence or serious acts of violence against children.”

Is the US violating an important policy?

According to the authors of the letter, it appears the ongoing arms transfer to the Israeli government violates the entirety of the “Arms Transfers and Human Rights” section of the CAT policy. The letter outlines these violations in detail. 

“Similar to the situation with your CAT policy, we believe that it is undeniable that sufficient credible reports of and information regarding alleged Israeli gross violations of human rights exist to merit an assessment of our assistance to relevant units within Israel and the State Department’s compliance with the Leahy Laws,” the letter said. 

Tlaib and the other authors ask for immediate action to be taken if Israel is assessed to not be in compliance with CAT policies and Leahy Laws. 

The letter asks for a written explanation by Feb. 7 should actions not be taken. 

“If human rights for all people is a principle that this administration would claim to uphold internationally, then you must conduct assessments as to the State Department’s compliance with both of the Leahy Laws and your own Conventional Arms Transfer policy as it pertains to security assistance to Israel,” the letter said. “We demand you immediately take the aforementioned steps to enforce these policies without delay.”

The Post reached out to the Government Accountability Office, who said it received the letter which will now go through the regular review process before decisions are made within one to two weeks. 





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