WASHINGTON — An amendment offered by Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 20.
The amendment would enhance protections for human rights around the world. It requires the Department of Defense to explicitly report any foreign military units that have received financial assistance from the United States through security cooperation programs and are determined to have committed gross human rights violations before or during their participation in the programs. The report will also include recommendations to improve human rights training and additional measures that can be adopted to prevent human rights violations in the future.
“The United States has long stood as a beacon for the rights of every person, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality. We must continue to lead by example and ensure that American foreign aid does not contradict our values at home or abroad,” Pallone said. “This amendment is especially important now as Azerbaijan threatens Armenia’s safety and sovereignty with offensive attacks staged by Azeri armed forces in Armenia’s Tavush region. The United States should not be aiding and abetting reckless, autocratic states with appalling human rights records for any reason.”
This amendment is an important first step in creating oversight for the Defense Department’s Section 333 Building Partner Capacity Program that has sent enormous sums of money to regimes and dictators, including Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, which have documented human rights violations. The Department has spent more than a billion dollars for each of the last two years on Section 333. Even though the State Department has singled out Azerbaijani units for committing human rights violations, these units have received over $100 million in security assistance in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 through the program.
Pallone’s amendment was cosponsored in the House Committee on Rules by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).
During the April 2016 Four-Day War against Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh Republic) initiated by Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani military committed ISIS-style atrocities killing a 12-year-old boy, beheading a soldier, and mutilating an elderly Armenian couple. In addition, the latest and deadly attack against Armenia, which began last week on July 12 targeted civilian areas – the city of Berd and the villages of Aygepar, Chinari, Movses, Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, and Norashen – in Armenia’s Tavush Province. Azerbaijan also inexplicably threatened to target Armenia’s Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant.