House Committee Passes Amendment to Repeal 2001 War Authorization

Washington, D.C.Human Rights First today applauds the House Appropriation Committee for adopting an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The 2001 AUMF authorized force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, but has been used by the executive branch as the primary legal basis for military operations against an array of terrorist organizations in at least seven different countries for purposes far beyond what Congress intended. Today’s amendment was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

“It is long past time for Congress to revisit the 2001 authorization and tailor the president’s authority to current threats. Today’s amendment is an important step toward this goal,” said Human Rights First’s Rita Siemion. “The executive branch’s continued reliance on the 2001 AUMF for military operations far beyond what Congress originally intended undermines Congress’s important constitutional role in authorizing war, national security, U.S. leadership in the world, and human rights both at home and abroad.”

Human Rights First notes that expansive interpretations of a state’s authority to use wartime powers—such as lethal force as a first resort, military tribunals, and detention without charge or trial—embolden other states to use such practices. Constraining the use of these exceptional authorities to circumstances meeting the legal threshold for armed conflict and to where their use is militarily necessary, will provide a model for other states on how to use wartime authorities lawfully, strategically, and responsibly. By tailoring congressional war authorizations to the conflicts to which they are intended to apply and conducting regular oversight of war, Congress provides a crucial check on the executive branch, ensuring that presidents do not stretch wartime killing, detention, and trial authorities beyond the bounds of armed conflicts authorized by Congress.

If Congress decides to pass a new AUMF, Human Rights First cautions that any authorization should reflect the hard lessons of the last decade and a half. National security experts  and civil and human rights advocates alike agree that any new AUMF should be clear, specific, and tailored to current threats. A new issue brief by Human Rights First compares leading AUMF proposals and details how to effectively draft a new AUMF that empowers the United States to counter the terrorist threat, uphold the rule of law, and maintain the global legitimacy that is crucial to the success of the mission.


Published on June 29, 2017


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