Royce Calls for Temporary Waiver of Leahy Law So US Can Help Nigeria Recover Kidnapped Girls

By Melanie Arter | May 21, 2014 | 4:11pm EDT


A still from a video released by Boko Haram on Monday May 12, 2014 is believed to show some of the schoolgirls abducted by the terrorist group a month ago. The al-Qaeda banner is visible at the rear of the group. (Image: YouTube)

( – Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Wednesday called on a State Department official to ask for a temporary waiver to the Leahy law so that U.S. forces can assist the Nigerian military in rescuing 300 girls kidnapped last month by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

“Here is my suggestion: Ask for a temporary waiver. If you don’t want a permanent waiver, ask for a temporary waiver. Designate this as an extraordinary circumstance,” Royce told Sarah Sewall, one of the committee’s witnesses and under secretary of State for civilian security, democracy, and human rights.

The Leahy law prohibits funds from being used to train security forces of a foreign country if the Defense Department has credible information from the State Department that the unit has committed a “gross violation of human rights unless a necessary corrective steps have been taken.”

As previously reported, a Defense Department official testified last week before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, that the DoD has "credible information" that some Nigerian security force units "have committed gross violations of human rights."

"As we have advised the Nigerians, consistent with U.S. law and policy, we review security force units who may receive assistance, and we cannot and do not provide assistance when we have credible information that those units have committed gross violations of human rights," said Alice Friend, DoD's principal director for African Affairs.

Royce noted that the Leahy amendment is an impediment to the U.S. providing training assistance to the Nigerian military to rescue the girls that were kidnapped from their school.

“The Leahy amendment was what prohibits our active cooperation in the steps that I just enumerated here, you know, in tracking on the ground and to be able to plan that attack on the ground. That’s the whole point,” Royce said.

As previously reported, the girls appeared last week in a propaganda video, dressed up in Islamic garb and chanting an Islamic declaration of faith, while sitting below an al Qaeda banner.

Royce said assisting the Nigerian government with Boko Haram should be considered “a special circumstance,” adding that “their modus operandi is to destroy the schools and then recruit young, uneducated men into their ranks and teach them jihad.”

“And so as the jihad mushrooms out across north Africa and into Cameroon and into Chad and into neighboring states, we say, well, ‘You know human rights violations occurred in Nigeria, so we’re limited in what we can do,’ Royce said.

“The difficulty is that Boko Haram is in a process of expanding their terror, and the frequency of these attacks, the attacks on girls, that’s been an evolution,” he added.

“I mean as they’ve intimidated and frightened the Nigerian military, they’re now to the point where a lot of military units have run away, and so they can go in and take girls and you know, they can turn them into concubines or sell them or you know, enslave them, because that’s what they’re actually doing. They’re enslaving,” the congressman said.

Royce said U.S. forces are “well positioned to advise and assist Nigerian forces in the search for these girls, and in this role, U.S. forces are trained to deal with hostage situations. Unfortunately, the Nigerian forces are not.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Boko Haram killed 118 people in two bombings in Jos, Nigeria, and then assaulted three villages in northern Nigeria. One of the villages was located near the town of Chibok, where the schoolgirls were kidnapped.

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