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July 12, 2019

House Defense Bill Would Improve National Security through Human Rights

New York City—In response to the House of Representatives passing the defense bill (National Defense Authorization Act for the 2020 Fiscal Year, or “NDAA”), Human Rights First’s Sharon Kelly McBride issued the following statement:

With its defense bill, the House of Representatives today made a major statement that our national security is best served by upholding and advancing human rights. From ensuring accountability for Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations to promoting transparency and oversight in use of force operations to limiting the role of the military in immigration enforcement, the House version of the defense bill advances critical human rights priorities at a time when American leadership on human rights is sorely needed.

The House version of the defense bill would: 

  • Enable greater flexibility for transferring detainees out of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; 
  • Reinstate and strengthen critical reporting requirements on civilian harm caused by U.S. operations; 
  • Prohibit the military from engaging in immigration detention; 
  • require that any housing of unaccompanied minor migrants in military facilities meets the care of custody guidelines; 
  • Impose sanctions on Saudi officials responsible for the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi; 
  • Restrict U.S. military support for the war in Yemen; 
  • Protect immigrants who have served in or aided the military; 
  • Ensure equality under the law for transgender servicemembers; and, 
  • Curtail the executive branch's abuse of war authorizations that could harm human rights, including by repealing the out-of-date 2002 Iraq War authorization, expressing concern about the stretching of the 2001 9/11 authorization, and emphasizing the importance of imposing clear limits on any new authorizations. 

Human Rights First supports these important human rights provisions, and in many cases developed policy recommendations that are reflected in them. The House and Senate will now proceed to conference negotiations to produce a final defense bill. Human Rights First will fight to ensure that these critical human rights priorities are reflected in that final bill.

For more information or to speak with McBride contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.