New War Authorization Shouldn’t Repeat Past Mistakes

Washington, D.C. — Human Rights First today urged members of Congress to narrowly tailor any military authorization against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to appropriately reflect lessons learned from the United States’ military actions over the past decade under the 2001 war authorization. The organization notes that over-broad language in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorized the use of force against those responsible for the 9/11attacks, has been stretched to cover the use of force 14 years later against groups that did not even exist in 2001, undermining human rights protections and rule of law. Last night in an Oval Office address President Obama called on Congress to develop an AUMF in the wake of recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

“If members of Congress choose to authorize war against ISIL, they should be sure to avoid the broad authorization language, insufficient transparency requirements, and weak congressional oversight provisions in the 2001 AUMF,” said Human Rights First’s Rita Siemion. “To ensure that the United States is empowered to counter the present terrorist threat while also upholding the rule of law, maintaining global legitimacy, and promoting respect for human rights, we must be smart rather than afraid. ISIL is counting on us acting in the heat of the moment rather than strategically and deliberately.”

Human Rights First recommends that any authorization to use force against ISIL include:

  • An ISIL-specific authorization with a clearly defined set of mission objectives;
  • Robust reporting and transparency requirements sufficient to keep both Congress and the public informed;
  • Requirement to comply with U.S. obligations under international law;
  • Clarification that the authorization is the sole source of statutory authority to use force against ISIL to prevent confusion or overlap; and,
  • A sunset date for both the new ISIL AUMF and for the 2001 AUMF to ensure continued Congressional support for the use of force as the conflict evolves.

Human Rights First’s recommendations are in line with a statement of principles released by a group of top national security lawyers to guide Congress as it considers a force authorization against ISIL. The principles have garnered bipartisan support and articulate a prudent approach to drafting an effective ISIL AUMF. The signatories of that statement include: Rosa Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Sarah H. Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights, Columbia Law School; Jennifer Daskal, Assistant Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law; Walter Dellinger, Partner, O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Ryan Goodman, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law, New York University School of Law; Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law, Yale Law School; Marty Lederman, Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; and Stephen I. Vladeck, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law.

Press

Published on December 7, 2015

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