Siemion to Testify Before Congress on War Authorization

Washington, D.C.In testimony today before the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force and House Liberty Caucus, Human Rights First’s Rita Siemion will urge members of Congress to only consider a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that is clear, specific, carefully tailored to the situation at hand, and aligned with U.S. legal obligations.

“The founders of this nation recognized the profound significance of going to war and wisely assigned this power to Congress. If, after careful consideration, Congress decides that continued use of military force is warranted, any authorization it considers should reflect the hard lessons of the 2001 AUMF,” said Human Rights First’s Rita Siemion in remarks prepared for her testimony. “If Congress cannot reach agreement on an authorization with a clearly defined scope and firm limits, it should not pass one.”

In today’s testimony, Siemion notes that any new AUMF passed by Congress should include the following five elements:

  • Name the specific enemy that military force is authorized against and specify the permitted mission objectives to prevent the executive branch from overstepping Congress’s intent.
  • Include robust reporting requirements to promote democratic accountability and enable Congress to fulfill its critical oversight functions.
  • Require compliance with U.S. obligations under international law to demonstrate to our allies and enemies alike that the United States is a nation that complies with the rule of law and is committed to its obligations to respect state sovereignty, human rights, and the law of armed conflict.
  • Include language that makes it clear that it is the sole source of statutory authority to use force against the enemy named in the authorization to avoid overlap, confusion, or loopholes.
  • Include a sunset provision that sets a timetable for ensuring continued congressional approval and oversight as the conflict evolves, providing a safeguard against perpetual armed conflict or overly expansive executive interpretations.

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 usage 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.


Published on February 27, 2018


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