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Home / Press Release / Siemion to Testify Before Senate Committee on War Authorization
May 16, 2018

Siemion to Testify Before Senate Committee on War Authorization

Washington, D.C.—In testimony today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Human Rights First’s Rita Siemion urged senators to only enact a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) that includes adequate safeguards to minimize the risk of embroiling the nation in new conflicts without public debate or authorization from Congress, including by naming specific enemies that force is authorized against and setting an expiration date. 

“The United States has many tools at its disposal for countering the range of diverse terrorist threats around the world today… Authorizing war allows the government to use a range of extreme and exceptional powers, including lethal targeting and detention without criminal charge, that if not appropriately cabined can infringe on core American freedoms and values,” wrote Siemion in her testimony. “These exceptional powers were designed for the exceptional circumstance of battlefield combat and they should be carefully confined to circumstances necessitating their use. Military force should only be authorized if Congress has determined that such force is necessary, lawful, proportionate, and effective.” 

Human Rights First notes that over-broad language in the 2001 AUMF has been stretched to cover the use of force nearly 17 years later against groups that did not even exist in 2001. Such stretching undermines human rights protections and the rule of law by enabling expansive use of wartime powers—such as lethal force as a first resort, military tribunals, and detention without charge or trial. By tailoring congressional war authorizations to current threats that require a military response and conducting ongoing oversight, Congress can ensure that future presidents do not stretch wartime killing, detention, and trial authorities beyond the battlefield situations where they are needed.  

Ahead of today’s hearing, Human Rights First along with two dozen other advocacy and civil society organizations sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to reject the most recent AUMF proposal that would cede to the executive branch Congress’ power under Article I of the Constitution to declare war and would authorize this president and future presidents to send American troops to countries where we are not currently at war—with no meaningful limitations on the type of force that may be used or whom it may be used against. 

For Human Rights First’s recommendations on how to draft a clear and specific AUMF that is tailored to the conflict, see our Drafting an Effective Authorization for Use of Military Force.