Citing her experience as a Somali war refugee, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Wednesday unveiled the Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers Act, which "imposes universal human rights and humanitarian conditions on security cooperation with the United States."
"I am a survivor of civil war, and I understand personally how it terrorizes children around the world," the Minnesota Democrat said. "I also know the moral authority the United States carries on human rights and international law. We have an opportunity to live up to these values, to ensure that no child lives through violent conflict like I did, and to mean what we say when it comes to championing human rights worldwide."
"That is why I cannot remain silent in the face of children being bombed in buses in Yemen," she explained, referencing the U.S.-backed assault led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. "That is why I cannot remain silent as the poorest countries in the world face climate devastation—even though they are the least able to afford it and are the least responsible for its causes."
"We have an opportunity... to ensure that no child lives through violent conflict like I did, and to mean what we say when it comes to championing human rights worldwide."
"And that is why I will never apologize for speaking out on behalf of children hiding under their bed somewhere like I was, waiting for the bullets to stop," Omar added. "I am proud to introduce the Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers Act to ensure that there are consequences to human rights abuses regardless of who commits them. America has led the world in standing up for human rights before. It's time for us to seize the mantle of leadership again."
The legislation would establish a bipartisan, independent commission—modeled after the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom—that would determine when other countries cross "red lines" in terms of human rights and international law. Nations that commit these violations would be barred from receiving any U.S. security aid, from arms sales to exchanges with U.S. law enforcement.
Such sanctions would only be lifted if the violations ceased and the country took steps to ensure they are not committed in the future. The bill specifically mentions criminal prosecutions of perpetrators; reparations to victims; structural, legal, and institutional reforms; and truth-telling mechanisms.
Although the proposal has no clear path forward in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, countries that could be impacted by the bill, if passed, include Saudi Arabia and Israel. The latter is currently facing global criticism, including from American Jews, for violence against Palestinians in illegally occupied territory.
The legislation is part of Omar's "Pathway to Peace" and comes about a month after the House GOP, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), voted to remove her from the chamber's Committee on Foreign Affairs. She declared at the time that "I didn't come to Congress to be silent... My leadership and voice will not diminish if I am not on this committee for one term."