House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., has introduced the Safeguarding Human Rights in Arms Exports Act of 2023, which would require the United States to evaluate the human rights records of potential buyers of U.S. arms. File pool photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo
March 30 (UPI) -- A group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced legislation to bolster Congress' role when it comes to proposed arms sales, to prevent the United States from contributing to human rights abuses.
The Safeguarding Human Rights in Arms Exports Act of 2023, or SAFEGUARD Act, was introduced Wednesday by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
The SAFEGUARD Act would reform the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, in order to protect human rights when considering the export of arms and defense services to foreign countries.
"Supporting U.S. allies and partners ability to meet their security needs and our shared strategic interests is critically important, but this support must not come at the cost of undermining our democratic values," said Meeks.
"This legislation requires the U.S. to evaluate the human rights records of potential buyers of U.S. arms and prevents sales to governments responsible for violating human rights law."
The SAFEGUARD Act builds upon the Biden administration's new Conventional Arms Transfer policy with the aim of codifying it into law, so that it cannot reversed by future administrations.
Among those lawmakers co-sponsoring the SAFEGUARD Act are Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. Representatives Susan Wild, D-Pa.; Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.; Sara Jacobs, D-Calif.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., are also co-sponsoring the Act.
"We have a moral imperative to ensure that arms we provide foreign countries are not used to commit human rights abuses," Menendez said. "This commonsense effort will make sure that our foreign policy reflects those values."
"Much like we should be requiring universal background checks before selling weapons of war domestically, we should be prioritizing a government's human rights record before providing them access to our arms and defense services."