WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) today led a group of Democratic lawmakers in introducing the Safeguarding Human Rights in Arms Exports Act of 2023, new bicameral legislation to bolster Congress’ role in the review of proposed arms sales and exports to prevent the United States from contributing to or facilitating future human rights abuses. The SAFEGUARD Act seeks to reform the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 to guarantee that protection and promotion of human rights is an integral consideration of the export of arms and defense services to foreign countries.
“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,” said Chairman Menendez. “The SAFEGUARD Act will enact reforms so the protection of basic human rights will be a fundamental part of the U.S arms sales decision-making calculus. We have a moral imperative to ensure that arms we provide foreign countries are not used to commit human rights abuses. This commonsense effort will make sure that our foreign policy reflects those values.”
“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 Ranking Member Meeks. “This is why I’m proud to lead the House reintroduction of the SAFEGUARD Act. 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. Ensuring that we lead with our values is what distinguishes America as a leader among nations.”
Earlier this year, the Biden administration published a new Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) policy in an attempt to add more consideration to human rights concerns in arms sales. The SAFEGUARD Act seeks to build on that new policy and codify it into law so that it cannot be easily undone by future Administrations.
The Senate version of the Safeguarding Human Rights in Arms Exports Act of 2023 was cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
The House of Representatives’ version of the Safeguarding Human Rights in Arms Exports Act of 2023 was cosponsored by Representatives Susan Wild (PA-07), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Dean Phillips (MN-03).