February 09, 2024

Van Hollen, Warren, Senators Propose Amendment to Monitor and Reduce Harm to Civilians from U.S.-Origin Weapons

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), introduced an amendment to the National Security Act of 2024 that would require the State Department to review the use of U.S. weapons over the past year in conflicts around the world, including by Israel in Gaza, and to ensure that any use of U.S. weapons is in accordance with U.S. policy and international law.

Specifically, the amendment would provide $10 million for the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), in coordination with the State’s Political Military-Affairs office, to implement its new Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance (CHIRG) to investigate and monitor if U.S. weapons contribute to excessive civilian harm. It also requires the State Department to publish its CHIRG guidance and annually report all civilian harm events considered in the preceding year.

“The U.S. must provide the necessary resources to track any reports of U.S. weapons being used to cause civilian harm. This amendment will enhance the U.S. government’s capacity to do just that, and to further ensure that U.S. assistance is used in line with our values,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s and his right-wing government’s bombing campaign has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians,” said Senator Warren. “It is the responsibility of the U.S. to ensure our aid is used in compliance with international law and advances long-term peace, including reducing harm to civilians and prohibiting aid to any country that restricts humanitarian assistance.”

“The U.S. has a responsibility to ensure that any taxpayer-funded military assistance we provide our allies is used in a manner consistent with our values and international law. This amendment provides the State Department with the resources it needs to conduct crucial oversight into how U.S.-origin weapons are used,” said Senator Kaine.

"This critical amendment will strengthen efforts to hold all U.S. partners who receive American security assistance to the same standard – including in times of conflict,” said Senator Merkley.

“Under international humanitarian law, countries have an obligation to protect civilians. A military campaign that causes catastrophic damage to civilian infrastructure and disproportionate loss of civilian life is inconsistent with international humanitarian law and must stop. The funds Congress sends to Israel must be used in compliance with international law, to advance regional stability and preserve the hope for peace,” said Senator Welch.

This complements Senator Van Hollen’s amendment requiring that the use of U.S. supplemental aid complies with U.S. and international law, which President Biden adopted last night in his memorandum on nations receiving U.S. foreign military aid.