How many of you know what the Leahy Law is? You’ve probably never heard about it before today. Still, in the context in which I will frame this commentary, it is important to consider the Leahy law and what has been happening in the United States on the racial justice front.
1. What is the Leahy law?
- (1) The term “Leahy law” refers to two statutory provisions prohibiting the U.S. Government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights (GVHR). One statutory provision applies to the State Department, and the other applies to the Department of Defense. The State Department Leahy law was made permanent under section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 22 U.S.C. 2378d. The U.S. government considers torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and rape under the color of law as GVHRs when implementing the Leahy law. Incidents are examined on a fact-specific basis. The State Department Leahy law includes an exception permitting the resumption of assistance to a unit if the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the government of the country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.
- The DoD Leahy law is similar to the State Leahy law. Since 1999, Congress has included the DoD Leahy law in its annual appropriations act. The DoD Leahy law is now permanent in Section 362 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code. It requires that DoD-appropriated funds not be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a foreign security force unit if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that such unit has committed a GVHR. The law allows for two exceptions to this restriction. The first in cases where the Secretary of Defense (after consultation with the Secretary of State) determines that the country’s government has taken all necessary corrective steps. This first exception is also known as “remediation.” A second exception exists if U.S. equipment or other assistance is necessary to assist in disaster relief operations or other humanitarian or national security emergencies.
- The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2015 authorizes DoD to conduct training to promote respect for the rule of law and human rights, including for otherwise Leahy-ineligible units under certain circumstances. This training may be conducted with the concurrence of the Secretary of State and is withheld from any individual of a unit when there is credible information that such individual has committed GVHR (or has commanded a unit that has committed a GVHR).
The law was named after Vermont’s US Senator Patrick Leahy(D), the principal sponsor of the legislation. The legislation as it was crafted seemed to make a world of sense. After all, the American people should have clear stipulations on how their tax dollars are being spent; one would not want tax dollars funding rogue regimes in despotic banana republics, you know, in the shit-hole countries. Just ensure that we send billions and billions each year to the only democracy in the middle east, Israel(sic).
That aside, let us consider that many members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) had their US visas and green cards revoked and their names dragged through the mud. This is the legislation that made all of that possible.
The law stipulates that assistance may be prohibited to units of foreign security forces where credible information implicates that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights.
It also stipulates the conditions under which the Department of State would access the information as laid out in section (2) above.
The U.S. government considers torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and rape under the color of law as GVHRs when implementing the Leahy law.
For those of you who have toiled in Jamaica as a member of the JCF or the JDF, and if you were paying attention, you would recall that the US Government used this law to punish the JCF using the slanted, inflammatory lies peddled by the now-disgraced baby doctor Carolyn Gomes as proof of extrajudicial killings by the security forces.
No one should be deluded into thinking that there have not remained rogue elements within the Jamaican security apparatus. They exist in all security organizations, including over 18,000 police agencies operating across the United States.
It is also important to understand that Jamaica is one of the most violent nations on the planet; it also has one of the world’s lowest officers’ citizen ratio. In concluding that Jamaica’s Police use of lethal force led up to punitive actions by the United States against Jamaica, one must consider all of the facts. It includes decoupling each police-related killing from the chain called [extrajudicial killings] and examine each case based on the evidence.
As American police continue to kill.….….mind you, unarmed handcuffed African-Americans, we hear the constant refrain that we must consider the evidence of each case individually.
Smaller, less powerful governments do not receive that deference from the United States when allegations are made against their security forces, usually by actors with specific agendas antithetical to their own country’s interest, à la Carolyn Gomes and Jamaicans for justice.
The hypocrisy inherent in the way the Leahy Law has been applied, particularly in Jamaica, is in the quality of the information or should I say the lack thereof, on which the Jamaican Government was forced to shut down effective units of the security forces, including the Mobile reserve out of fear that the crumbs would immediately dry up from America’s table.
Ironically, the shutting down of those units has inevitably led the country closer to becoming a failed state. Jamaica is now unable to deal with its worst actors effectively.
This results from years of subversive activities orchestrated by Jamaicans for Justice and Carolyn Gomes, its chief architect.
As African-Americans and conscientious people of all color in the United States and across the planet await with bated breath, to see if finally, just once, America can get it right on justice; it has been the police that brought us to this point.
America has never done what’s right for African-Americans. Not at the Federal level. Not at the state level. Not at the community level. There is no basis, not a single precedent that would cause me to believe that even at this the most basic level, a level of only a few white people on a jury, we will not have a hung jury. But I hope for the peace of the country that I am wrong this time. That even with the most heinous of murders committed, as we watched in shocked disbelief, a murder that traumatized and galvanized the entire world, that a handful of white people will have that smallest shred of basic humanity and decency to do the right thing.
Mike Beckles is a former Police Detective, businessman, freelance writer, black achiever honoree, and creator of the blog mikebeckles.com.