Just Foreign Policy News, May 17, 2012
House GOP Leadership Blocks McGovern Amendment
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
GOP Admits It Lacks Votes for Afghan War
The House GOP leadership blocked consideration of the McGovern amendment – an implicit admission that they couldn’t stop enough Republicans from supporting it to prevent it from passing.
more NDAA updates:
Lee amendment to end the Afghan war failed 113-303. Roll call here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll264.xml
Kucinich-Conyers amendment to limit drone strikes failed on voice vote.
*Action: Support Turkey’s Opposition to Israeli Government’s Participation in NATO Summit
The Republic of Turkey has objected to the participation of the Israeli government in the NATO meeting in Chicago on the grounds that the Israeli government still has not been held to account for its assault on the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which left Turkish citizens and an American citizen dead. Veterans of the Gaza Freedom Flotillas have initiated a letter/petition to Turkey in support of its position and in support of sanctions against the Israeli government until it respects international law with respect to Palestinian human rights. You can add your name here:
*FAIR Action Alert: NYT’s Jerusalem Bureau Has New Conflict of Interest
Ask New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane to look into the conflict of interest posed by correspondent Isabel Kershner’s marriage to someone whose job it is to influence coverage on the issue she covers, working at an organization that she frequently quotes.
NIAC: House Vote on Iran Is No Endorsement of "Zero Enrichment" Redline
Although the AIPAC-backed resolution received strong support in the House, this only came after the lead Democratic sponsor, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) went on the record to clarify there is no authorization for war and made clear that the Congress was not opposing a diplomatic solution that would potentially allow for Iranian enrichment of uranium for strictly civilian purposes. Instead, Rep. Berman made clear that Iran would not have a "nuclear weapons capability" unless it masters fissile material production, builds and tests a warhead, develops a delivery vehicle, kicks out international inspectors, and shuts off the cameras of international nuclear inspectors.
FCNL: 2013 Military Authorization: Amendments to Watch
A roundup of key amendments on the NDAA.
Conyers to Rice on UN: Help Alleviate the Haitian Cholera Crisis
The office of Rep. John Conyers is circulating a letter to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice urging UN authorities to play a central role in addressing the cholera crisis in Haiti [a crisis initiated when UN troops brought cholera to Haiti.] Current signers [5/16] include: Conyers, Cohen, Clarke (NY), Moran, Towns, Grijalva, Rush, Lee, Kucinich, Edwards, Stark, Rangel, Brown, Maloney, Schakowsky, Clarke (MI), Waters, Honda, Clay, Lewis (GA), McCollum, Wilson (FL), Capuano, Blumenauer, McDermott, Ellison, Johnson (GA), Gutierrez, Jackson, Deutch. The Conyers letter was cited in a New York Times editorial. Urge your Rep. to support this letter.
1) Democrats accused the GOP of blocking consideration of a bipartisan amendment to accelerate the military transition out of Afghanistan by 2013, and transfer security operations to Afghanistan by 2014, The Hill reports. "I’m sorry that … many on my own side would not allow this amendment to get to the floor so we could have an honest debate, and we could say to the American people, we care about your $10 billion," said Republican Rep. Walter Jones. "We care about your sons and daughters and it’s time to stop sending them to give their life for nothing in Afghanistan."
2) Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) are pushing legislation that would roll back a recent White House decision to expand drone strikes, The Hill reports. The amendment would stop JSOC members from participating in combat operations "in which an unmanned aerial vehicle is used to attack a target who’s identity is unknown or is based solely on patters of behavior."
3) Honduran police and human rights activists headed to an isolated river town along the Honduran coast Thursday to investigate what happened last week during a gun battle that local officials say left four innocent people, including two pregnant women, dead in a drug bust at which U.S. agents were present, the Washington Post reports. News of the firefight, along with allegations of the four deaths, led local residents to demand that U.S. drug enforcement agents leave the area, according to the mayor.
4) A judge on struck down a portion of the NDAA giving the government wide powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists, saying it left journalists, scholars and political activists facing the prospect of indefinite detention for exercising First Amendment rights, AP reports. In March, the judge seemed sympathetic to the government’s arguments until she asked a government attorney if he could assure the plaintiffs that they would not face detention under the law for their work, AP notes. She wrote Wednesday that the failure of the government to make such a representation required her to assume that government takes the position that the law covers "a wide swath of expressive and associational conduct."
5) The Obama administration is weighing policy changes that would lift a tattered veil of secrecy from its controversial campaign of drone strikes, the Wall Street Journal reports. The policy changes under consideration could include specifying which extremist groups associated with al Qaeda can be targeted by the Pentagon under the 2001 congressional authorization for the use of military force against perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks. The debate has been given urgency by lawsuits seeking information on drone strikes; the government must formally respond with motions stating its position and why it will deny the requests, or fill them, the Journal says.
6) The WTO demanded that the US get rid of dolphin-safe tuna labels within 18 months, the Guardian reports. The decision was denounced by conservation groups.
7) Human rights activists and some lawmakers say the Obama administration is sending the wrong signal to the government of Bahrain in proceeding with a sale of new arms, Jim Lobe reports for Inter Press Service. "Given the continued deterioration in the human rights situation there, we think it’s a bad call to be releasing arms – any sort of arms – to Bahrain at this time," said Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. "We’re very concerned with the signal that this sends both to the Bahraini government and the Bahraini people," said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy.
8) Congressman Howard Berman said Thursday that if the reports that innocent people were killed in a DEA-linked drug raid in Honduras are true, the U.S. should review this part of its assistance to Honduras, AP reports. "I have consistently expressed deep concerns regarding the danger of pouring U.S. security assistance into a situation where Honduran security forces are involved in serious human rights violations," Berman said. "The problems are getting worse, not better, making such a review all the more urgent." Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, criticized the DEA’s involvement in a fatal attack, even if U.S. agents didn’t shoot. "DEA agents are never permitted to be involved in the killing of innocent people, whether or not they are in pursuit of criminal suspects," he said.
9) Honduran and US authorities should ensure a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of the alleged killing of four civilians and wounding of four others during a joint counternarcotics operation in the Mosquitia region of Honduras, Human Rights Watch said. International law enforcement standards strictly limit the use of lethal force against fleeing suspects, HRW notes. Firearms may be used against criminal suspects only "in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury" or a "grave threat to life" and only when "less extreme means are insufficient."
1) House advances defense bill, Dems blast lack of debate on Afghanistan
Pete Kasperowicz, The Hill, 05/17/12 02:37 PM ET
The House on Thursday approved a rule governing floor consideration of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), after Democrats criticized Republicans for preventing debate on an amendment to return U.S. troops from Afghanistan more quickly.
Members approved the rule in a 244-178 vote, setting up a long day and evening in which up to 142 amendments will be considered to the $643 billion authorization bill. Eight Democrats voted for the rule, and four Republicans voted against it.
While Republicans noted that they have tripled the number of amendments compared to when Democrats ruled the House, Democrats accused the GOP of blocking consideration of a bipartisan amendment to accelerate the military transition out of Afghanistan by 2013, and transfer security operations to Afghanistan by 2014.
This language – from Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Armed Services ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) – was one of about 100 amendment not made in order. But supporters of the amendment said rejecting it was a shocking move that prevents opponents of activities in Afghanistan from having any say on U.S. policy there in the next fiscal year.
Further, they said its rejection shows Republicans do not want to consider it for fear it might pass. "Our position is clearly where the country is," Smith said on the floor. "The majority didn’t want to have to vote on that, didn’t want to have to have that debate. So they froze out our amendment."
Smith stressed that he can’t recall speaking out against a rule for any bill, but said the way this issue was handled demanded that he speak. "It is not allowing us to have our position on the single-most important issue that faces our country right now in the Armed Services Committee, the future of the war in Afghanistan – it is not allowing us to have our position debated and voted on on the floor," he said. "I can think of no greater reason to vote down a rule than that."
"I’m sorry that … many on my own side would not allow this amendment to get to the floor so we could have an honest debate, and we could say to the American people, we care about your $10 billion," said Jones. "We care about your sons and daughters and it’s time to stop sending them to give their life for nothing in Afghanistan."
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) recalled comments from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who said he has "no fear in allowing the House to work its will."
"The rule to consider this bill is not only unfair, but inconsistent with the majority’s stated goal of having an open process," Hoyer said.
Republicans said the rule does allow consideration of an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to immediately end activities in Afghanistan. But supporters of the bipartisan amendment said that is not the same as their proposal, which allows some time for the United States to prepare the withdrawal.
McGovern noted that language in the underlying bill, H.R. 4310, would require the United States to keep at least 68,000 troops in Afghanistan through 2014.
McGovern also criticized Republicans for rejecting an amendment that would strike funding for the creation of a missile defense site on the East Coast by the end of 2015. McGovern called this project an "East Coast Star Wars fantasy base."
"The defense bill provides $100 million in start-up money for the East Coast base, and to bring it into operation by 2015 will require another projected $5 billion," he said. "Why shouldn’t we have such a debate on an expensive proposal like that? Or is all the Republican talk about cost-cutting and putting our fiscal house in order as big a fantasy as this silly Star Wars proposal?"
2) Kucinich, Conyers look to block White House effort to expand drone strikes
Carlo Munoz, The Hill, 05/17/12 01:36 PM ET
Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) are pushing legislation that would roll back a recent White House decision to expand drone strikes against terrorist targets around the world.
The legislation was introduced as an amendment to the House version of the 2013 defense budget bill. House members plan to bring that amendment and others up for floor debate on Thursday.
If approved, the amendment would block members of the Pentagon’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from carrying out unmanned airstrikes under newly rewritten White House authority on those operations.
Specifically, the amendment would stop JSOC members from participating in combat operations "in which an unmanned aerial vehicle is used to attack a target who’s identity is unknown or is based solely on patters of behavior."
The Kucinich-Conyers legislation flies directly in the face of the Obama administration’s decision to execute those types of airstrikes, particularly against suspected terror targets in Yemen.
In April, the White House approved a CIA request that would allow the agency to hit terror targets tied to al Qaeda’s Yemen cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), even when it doesn’t know their identities.
Before the new rules, U.S. military and intelligence planners used classified lists of known terror targets to plan unmanned airstrikes.
Additionally, those strikes could not be executed until U.S. intelligence confirmed a target was at a certain location.
Now, American drones can take out targets where suspected terrorists could be at a certain locations, without confirmation of their actual presence.
3) Probe underway in remote area of Honduras after gunfight involving U.S. drug agents
William Booth, Washington Post, Thursday, May 17, 2:34 PM
Mexico City – Honduran police and human rights activists headed to an isolated river town along the Honduran coast Thursday to investigate what happened last week during a gun battle that local officials say left four innocent people, including two pregnant women, dead in a drug bust at which U.S. agents were present.
News of the firefight, along with allegations of the four deaths, led local residents to torch several houses and demand that U.S. drug enforcement agents leave the area, according to the mayor.
The gun battle took place Friday along the muddy Patuca River, near the northeastern town of Ahuas, as Honduran forces assisted by U.S. advisers in four U.S. helicopters sought to seize a load of cocaine being moved from an illicit jungle airstrip to a waiting boat.
"First the narcos opened fire, and later the DEA helicopters were searching the area, and they fired with their guns at the boat with civilians, thinking maybe they were the narcos," the mayor of Ahuas, Lucio Vaquedano, said in an interview.
Vaquedano said several bodies had been recovered and that the boat the civilians were allegedly aboard was pocked with large bullet holes, which he said police told him were from a 50-caliber gun, the kind used by a door gunner on one of the U.S.-supplied helicopters. "It was easy to get confused because there were two boats, and the narco boat didn’t have lights and the civilian boat was running with its lights on," the mayor said.
Ahuas is a town of 1,500 people, many of them members of indigenous Miskito tribes, in the northeastern state of Gracias a Dios where the joint U.S.-Honduras operation was conducted.
U.S. officials said Thursday that at least "several" DEA agents had served as advisers during the raid but that the American officers, while armed for self-defense, did not fire their weapons.
[…] With congressional approval and in coordination with the State Department’s Narcotics Affairs Section, the Drug Enforcement Administration has sent advisory support teams to Honduras to train and coordinate anti-drug operations with vetted units of the Honduran National Police.
These military-style fast-response units, using U.S. intelligence, radar tracking of illicit flights and U.S. helicopters, seized 22 metric tons of cocaine last year – a record amount – but they have also generated controversy, as human rights advocates criticize the further militarization of the drug wars.
[…] Ruth Donaire, a spokeswoman for the National Police in Honduras, said that a commission had been established to investigate the case but noted the difficulty of access to the area. "We are still investigating," she said. "We cannot confirm the number of dead because we currently have four different versions of the facts, with four different figures."
U.S. and Honduran human rights activists demanded more information. "It is critical that both Honduran and U.S. authorities ensure that the killings are thoroughly investigated to determine whether the use of lethal force was justified," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. "If evidence demonstrates that security forces violated international standards, they must be held accountable."
4) Federal judge: Terror law violates 1st Amendment
Larry Neumeister, Associated Press, May 17, 2012
New York – A judge on Wednesday struck down a portion of a law giving the government wide powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists, saying it left journalists, scholars and political activists facing the prospect of indefinite detention for exercising First Amendment rights.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said in a written ruling that a single page of the law has a "chilling impact on First Amendment rights." She cited testimony by journalists that they feared their association with certain individuals overseas could result in their arrest because a provision of the law subjects to indefinite detention anyone who "substantially" or "directly" provides "support" to forces such as al-Qaida or the Taliban. She said the wording was too vague and encouraged Congress to change it.
"An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so," the judge said.
She said the law also gave the government authority to move against individuals who engage in political speech with views that "may be extreme and unpopular as measured against views of an average individual. "That, however, is precisely what the First Amendment protects," Forrest wrote.
She called the fears of journalists in particular real and reasonable, citing testimony at a March hearing by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Christopher Hedges, who has interviewed al-Qaida members, conversed with members of the Taliban during speaking engagements overseas and reported on 17 groups named on a list prepared by the State Department of known terrorist organizations. He testified that the law has led him to consider altering speeches where members of al-Qaida or the Taliban might be present.
[…] Hedges was among seven individuals and one organization that challenged the law with a January lawsuit. The National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law in December, allowing for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. Wednesday’s ruling does not affect another part of the law that enables the United States to indefinitely detain members of terrorist organizations, and the judge said the government has other legal authority it can use to detain those who support terrorists.
[…] Attorney Carl Mayer, speaking for plaintiffs at oral arguments earlier this year, had noted that even President Barack Obama expressed reservations about certain aspects of the bill when he signed it into law.
After the ruling, Mayer called on the Obama administration to drop its decision to enforce the law. He also called on Congress to change it "to make it the law of the land that U.S. citizens are entitled to trial by jury. They are not subject to military detention, policing and tribunals, all the things we fought a revolution to make sure would never happen in this land."
[…] In March, the judge seemed sympathetic to the government’s arguments until she asked a government attorney if he could assure the plaintiffs that they would not face detention under the law for their work. She wrote Wednesday that the failure of the government to make such a representation required her to assume that government takes the position that the law covers "a wide swath of expressive and associational conduct."
5) U.S. Considers Sharing More on Drone Program
Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2012, 7:25 p.m. ET
Washington – The Obama administration is weighing policy changes that would lift a tattered veil of secrecy from its controversial campaign of drone strikes, a recognition that the expanding program has become a regular part of U.S. global counterterrorism operations.
U.S. drone strikes are hardly a secret. Officials have spoken openly about them, even discussing the operations in formal speeches. But they are still classified, and unauthorized disclosures about details of individual missions could constitute a felony.
The policy changes under consideration could include specifying which extremist groups associated with al Qaeda can be targeted by the Pentagon under the 2001 congressional authorization for the use of military force against perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to U.S. officials.
The debate has been given urgency by lawsuits seeking information on drone strikes; the government must formally respond with motions stating its position and why it will deny the requests, or fill them.
But many officials also believe that it is time to re-evaluate U.S. policies on secrecy about the targeted-killing program, saying that greater openness could defuse criticism of the practice.
Unmanned aerial strikes on terrorist suspects began after the Sept. 11 attacks, at first as a rare occurrence. Under the Obama administration, drone strikes by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military have become increasingly common as a primary tool in U.S. national-security strategy.
The Pentagon has a policy of disclosing traditional military operations once they are complete. But rules for counterterrorism strikes haven’t kept up with their expanded use. Pentagon officials still routinely decline to discuss details of operations in Yemen or Somalia at news conferences as a matter of policy, while more freely discussing counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.
The changes considered most likely to win adoption would bring about greater openness regarding the military drone program, while keeping most or all details of CIA strikes classified, U.S. officials said. CIA officials are opposed to publicly acknowledging the details of drone programs under its control, for fear of setting precedents that could affect other covert programs.
Two lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union, in March 2010 and February 2011, sought CIA records on its program of targeted killing with drones. Separately, the New York Times sued for access to the administration’s legal justifications for the 2011 CIA drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and top leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Obama administration is due to answer the lawsuits in New York and Washington on Monday, after winning a series of extensions.
[…] Instead, information about strikes is inconsistent. Government officials speaking privately in many cases release more information about covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan than defense officials are allowed to discuss about military drone strikes in Yemen.
Administration officials considered revealing more about U.S. military operations in Yemen and Somalia as part of a speech last month by John Brennan, the top White House counterterrorism adviser. The speech formally acknowledged that the U.S. uses drones to target terrorists, but officials couldn’t agree on how much more to say, administration officials said.
Since that speech, Pentagon public-affairs officials have continued to refuse to provide any details of strikes in Yemen.
6) US’s dolphin-safe tuna labels banned by court calling them ‘unfair’ to Mexico
Trade court gives US 18 months to do away with labels, saying they give ‘less favourable treatment’ to Mexican products
Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, Wednesday 16 May 2012 17.20 EDT
The international trade court has effectively outlawed the sale of dolphin-friendly canned tuna in American supermarkets, ruling such labels were unfair to Mexican fishermen.
The ruling, delivered on Wednesday, was the third from the World Trade Organisation against the use of a voluntary system of labels for dolphin protection and was immediately denounced by conservation groups.
"It’s an absurd decision," said Mark Palmer, a marine mammal expert at the Earth Island Institute which devised the voluntary standard for canned tuna.
The label system was introduced 20 years ago to protect dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific, the source for almost all of America’s tuna.
Campaigners say the labels have been successful in reducing the number of dolphins killed by tuna fishing fleets, and the system has strong support from the Obama administration and from congress.
But the WTO said in its ruling that the labels were not "even-handed" when it came to Mexican fishermen.
[…] "I suspect the issue is going to boil down to whether we allow Mexico to kill dolphins and then say their tuna is dolphin safe," Palmer said.
Dolphin and tuna tend to congregate near each other in the Pacific. Until then fishing vessels, occasionally with air support, would chase and encircle dolphins to try to get to the tuna swimming beneath the water.
Fish sold under that label must be caught without chasing dolphin, and without the use of drift nets. Vessels operating in the eastern Pacific must have observers on board to ensure they follow the code.
Campaigners say virtually all of the tuna sold in the US meets that standard, and that major supermarkets will not stock cans of tuna that don’t carry the dolphin-safe label.
However, Mexican fishermen continue to fish using those methods, and the government challenged the label as an unfair trade practice. Venezuelan and Colombian fishermen use the same methods, but those countries were not part of the suit.
Public Citizen, which also campaigned against the WTO intervention on canned tuna, said the ruling was an intrusion on US consumer choices. "If Mexican fleets choose to use dolphin-safe tuna-fishing methods, they can use the label just like US, Ecuadorean and other nations’ fleets," the group said in a statement. "But Mexico, which challenged the US rule, wanted access to the label without meeting the standards."
7) U.S. Arms Sale Sends Wrong Signal to Bahrain, Groups Say
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, May 14
Washington – The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is sending the wrong signal to the government of Bahrain in proceeding with a partial sale of new arms to Manama, according to human rights activists and some lawmakers here.
Their reaction followed Friday’s announcement by the State Department that it had cleared a number of items for transfer out of a 53- million-dollar arms package that the administration originally announced last September but subsequently held up due to opposition from key members of Congress.
In announcing what it called the "renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain", the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom’s ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island, especially among its majority Shi’a community.
Demonstrations have been taking place on an almost nightly basis in Shi’a villages in recent weeks and have increased in violence, with some youths throwing Molotov cocktails at police, and with police firing tear gas and birdshot to disperse the protests, with sometimes fatal results.
"Given the continued deterioration in the human rights situation there, we think it’s a bad call to be releasing arms – any sort of arms – to Bahrain at this time," Joe Stork, a veteran Middle East specialist at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS.
"We’re very concerned with the signal that this sends both to the Bahraini government and the Bahraini people," said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).
"And we’re very disappointed that this announcement was not accompanied by an announcement of any real progress on reform issues, including the numerous recommendations made by the Bassiouni Commission that have yet to be implemented," he said.
He was referring to the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) that was chaired by the noted Egyptian-American jurist, Cherif Bassiouni and which last November issued a nearly 500-page report on serious human rights abuses committed by government forces during its Saudi-backed crackdown against the pro-democracy movement last winter and spring.
Among its most important recommendations, it called for the immediate release of hundreds of people imprisoned for exercising their right to free speech or peaceful assembly and for the investigation and prosecution of officials at all levels responsible for serious abuses, including torture and unlawful killings.
8) Reverberations from drug raid felt in US, Honduras
Alberto Arce and Martha Mendo, Associated Press, 06:09 p.m., Thursday, May 17, 2012
Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Bullets flew as U.S. helicopters swooped toward a river boat. Honduran national police rappelled to the ground and locals scattered after loading close to 1,000 pounds of cocaine. Now reverberations from a drug raid that locals say killed four innocent people are being felt from the sultry jungles of Central America to Capitol Hill.
Last week’s DEA-supported predawn raid on the banks of a remote Honduran river began when U.S. drug agents and Honduran national police tracked an airplane loaded with cocaine as it entered the country from South America. It reportedly ended with two pregnant women and two men dead.
Honduras National Police Chief Ricardo Ramirez del Cid said his officers returned fire from a helicopter when they came under attack from the boat. There was no one in the boat when police finally rappelled from the helicopters to seize the cocaine, Ramirez said. Neither he nor U.S Drug Enforcement Administration agents also on the mission could confirm if anyone died.
Numerous local officials, including Mayor Lucio Vaquedano of the coastal town of Ahuas, said four people diving for lobster and shellfish were killed and that they were not involved with drug trafficking.
Congressman Howard Berman said Thursday that if the reports that innocent people were killed are true, the U.S. should review this part of its assistance to Honduras.
"I have consistently expressed deep concerns regarding the danger of pouring U.S. security assistance into a situation where Honduran security forces are involved in serious human rights violations," said the California Democrat. "The problems are getting worse, not better, making such a review all the more urgent."
[…] Ethan Nadelmann who runs the pro-legalization group, Drug Policy Alliance, criticized the DEA’s involvement in a fatal attack, even if U.S. agents didn’t shoot.
"DEA agents are never permitted to be involved in the killing of innocent people, whether or not they are in pursuit of criminal suspects," he said. "What happened in Honduras appears to have crossed the line – an action that was not approved by the U.S. Congress – and is, ultimately, unethical."
9) Honduras: Investigate Killing of Four Civilians
Counternarcotics Operations Should Abide by Standards on Use of Force
Human Rights Watch, May 17, 2012
Washington, DC – Honduran and US authorities should ensure a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of the alleged killing of four civilians and wounding of four others during a joint counternarcotics operation in the Mosquitia region of Honduras.
In the pre-dawn hours of May 11, a helicopter carrying members of the Honduran National Police and agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) opened fire on a boat traveling on a river in the Mosquitia region. According to credible news reports, four civilians were killed, two of whom were pregnant women, and four civilians were wounded, including at least one minor.
"It is critical that both Honduran and US authorities ensure that the killings are thoroughly investigated to determine whether the use of lethal force was justified," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "If evidence demonstrates that security forces violated international standards, they must be held accountable."
International law enforcement standards strictly limit the use of lethal force against fleeing suspects. Principal 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (adopted in 1990 by the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders) permits the intentional use of lethal force by law enforcement officials only "when strictly unavoidable to protect life." Firearms may be used against criminal suspects only "in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury" or a "grave threat to life" and only when "less extreme means are insufficient."
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