Video Transcript: Leahy Vetting Information Session for TIP Office Grantees

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
February 1, 2017


Hello. Welcome to the Leahy Vetting information session for TIP Office grantees. This presentation will help you understand one of your legal obligations as a recipient of U.S. foreign assistance funding.

Today we’ll define Leahy, where it comes from, and how it works.

We’ll outline the Leahy Vetting process as well as identify the information your organization, as a grantee, is responsible for providing.

Finally, we’ll provide guidance on what to do if challenges occur and outline some of the consequences organizations face if they fail to fulfill their Leahy obligations.

The Leahy Amendment is a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which states, “No assistance shall be furnished…to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the [U.S.] Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

For the purposes of Leahy Vetting, a violation can include instances of torture, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances or rape under, the color of law – which means, rape when conducted by an individual or unit while performing, seeming to perform, or acting under the auspices of its official duties.

While these are the most common examples of gross human rights violations vetting officers are likely to encounter, violations may also include cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person.

But what is “foreign assistance?” The Leahy law applies to any and all forms of support including, but not limited to training technical assistance the distribution of materials and any other equipment, regardless of its function. Therefore, recipients of one or more of the above forms of “assistance” – including forms of assistance not listed here – are subject to the Leahy vetting requirement.

What constitute the “security forces” of a foreign country?

Security forces may include any entity or unit – including individuals – authorized by a state or political subdivision – such as a city, county, commune, etc. – to use force to accomplish its mission.

Security forces also include all enlisted military personnel regardless of their specialty or function, such as gendarmes or carabinieri.

The use of force includes, but is not limited to, the power to search, detain, arrest, or use deadly force.

Once again, none of the funds under this award may be used to provide training or other assistance to any unit or member of the security forces of a foreign country if the Department of State has credible information that such individual or unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

A “unit” may refer to any operational group active in the field with a centralized command structure or discipline.

Units may be unique to the country and often vary between security forces both military and civilian.

Civilian security forces may include, but are not limited to police officers, border guards, and other law enforcement personnel.

Individuals who are not members of the security forces but who participate in activities under the award – such as politicians, academics, community members, and so forth - generally do not need to be vetted.

 

Keep in mind, there may be individual units which have not committed gross violations of human rights but which are a part of a larger unit that has. In this instance, State Department officials will consider the clean unit as tainted, unless there is sufficient evidence to narrow the accusations of gross violations of human rights to another smaller sub-unit. If sufficient evidence exists that gross violations of human rights were committed by a different sub-unit , then the original sub-unit will be considered clean.

 

If there is not sufficient evidence the unit and all other sub-units, remain tainted and will not be permitted access to foreign assistance through a J/TIP program.

It is this process of screening individuals and units serving in security forces that is called Leahy Vetting. In every case, vetting begins in the home country where the U.S. embassy enters information about the unit and individual nominated for assistance into the International Vetting and Security Tracking system in order to conduct consular political and other specific security and human rights checks.

The embassy vetting results are then submitted to the Department of State in Washington, DC where vetting officers evaluate the human rights records of the unit and individual against a full spectrum of open source and classified records.

If the vetting officers in the State Department agree that there is credible information of a gross violation of human rights – committed either by the individual or the unit they are a part of they will be formally rejected and cannot receive foreign assistance through your TIP Office award. The individual and unit would also be ineligible to benefit from funds provided through cost-shares or in-kind contributions raised on your organization’s behalf. However, if the vetting officers determine the individual or unit appears not to have committed any human rights violations they will be considered “clean” and may participate in J/TIP – funded activities for up to 12 months from the date of clearance.

If the same individual or unit is expected to participate in a J/TIP-funded training or activity more than 12 months after being cleared through the Leahy Vetting process, they will need to be re-cleared before doing so. The U.S. embassy will notify you, the grantee, directly with the results of Leahy Vetting – usually via email.

Please note, it is the duty of the U.S. embassy – not the grantee – to inform the host government that particular individuals and units have failed the vetting process and are ineligible to participate in activities funded by the TIP Office.

To begin the Leahy Vetting process, your organization is responsible for obtaining and submitting the full name, date of birth, country of birth, country of citizenship, gender, rank, title, and organizational affiliation for each member of a non-American police unit, military unit, or any other security force who will participate in an activity under this award.

Grantees are also responsible for providing information specific to the unit that will receive direct assistance or the unit from which an individual beneficiary of assistance comes. Unit information must include the unit’s full battalion-level, or equivalent, name in English, the unit’s full name in the local language, as well as its location, and aliases, if applicable.

A lack of sufficient unit information is the most common shortcoming in Leahy vetting submission requests and the item most likely to cause vetting delays.

Remember, Leahy Vetting applies to both law enforcement and military employees of security forces participating in any activities funded under this award, including training, workshops or meetings, conferences, and other activities.

Also be sure to include a description of the proposed activity where it will take place as well as when you expect the activity to take place. If the person or unit will participate in multiple activities as part of an ongoing program please note the timeframe.

Also be sure to note the funding source, which for most TIP Office grantees will always be INCLE and the date by which you need the vetting request to be completed.

Be sure to provide the identified individual, unit, and activity information for prospective participants to the U.S. Embassy in the country where the award is being implemented at least sixty calendar days before conducting activities with law enforcement or security forces. Vetting cannot be completed retroactively and must occur prior to the implementation of any J/TIP-funded activity.

The Leahy Vetting process is complex and your organization should expect the occasional challenge to arise. Whether there are problems acquiring the necessary biographical information from the host government the vetting process seems to be taking too long or if a person or unit shows up unexpectedly to your training or activity, it is important you immediately inform both the embassy and TIP Office program officer. Including one or more un-vetted participants in a J/TIP-funded training or activity is considered a Leahy violation and will result in disciplinary action.

Remember, in all cases, it is your responsibility to collaborate with the relevant U.S. Embassy official(s) on a case-by-case basis to determine if the Leahy requirement applies to specific activities or proposed participants. No trainings or activities for foreign security forces may occur under a J/TIP award until the U.S. embassy has cleared each participant.

It’s also worth noting that grantees implementing J/TIP-funded awards and activities in remote areas should be proactive in addressing challenges associated with their location. For example, it may take longer than average to receive results of Leahy Vetting, which should be factored into the planning stage for activities in remote locations.

Remember, it is your responsibility to collaborate with the relevant U.S. Embassy official(s) on a case-by-case basis to determine if the Leahy requirement applies to specific activities or proposed participants.

Finally, individuals and units undergoing the vetting process may be identified as having committed human rights abuses by entities such as international organizations, human rights groups, U.S. government agencies, and so on. This is known as derogatory reporting. Grantees should be aware that derogatory reporting often causes substantial delays in vetting determinations and can potentially lead to non-approvals and canceled assistance. If the individual or unit fails the Leahy vetting process, the grantee should defer all questions and comments from the host government to the U.S. embassy.

 

No matter what the challenge, your first step should always be to contact the U.S. embassy. Each embassy has at least one official responsible for overseeing Leahy Vetting in your country. Your TIP Office Program Officer will identify this official for you.

 

It’s critical for you to reach out to him or her and start building a relationship early on.

Because Leahy Vetting requirements may be different from country to country or region to region, the embassy will provide specific instructions, forms, and reporting templates for your use; these may require additional information than what is described in this presentation.

If you have any difficulty reaching the specified Leahy Vetting POC at the embassy, or if you do not receive timely responses from embassy staff please contact your TIP Office Program Officer.

Remember, if your organization experiences any challenges associated with the Leahy Vetting process, reach out to your designated Leahy point of contact at the U.S. embassy for assistance.

Please note - Failure to comply with the Leahy Vetting requirements outlined in this presentation – as well as any additional requirements identified by the U.S. embassies – can result in financial penalties – including the repayment of all costs incurred in the planning and implementation of activities that included non-vetted individuals or units to the TIP Office and termination of your J/TIP award.

This concludes our presentation on Leahy Vetting. For more information the Leahy Law, please visit the web address below.

On behalf of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, thank you for your participation.