December 10 each year marks International Human Rights Day. Human rights is an important element of US foreign policy. The State Department has four main foreign policy goals:
In support of US foreign policy objectives, the Department of Defense actively promotes human rights and adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) with its security partners. The US Southern Command, for example, has a dedicated human rights office. SOUTHCOM uses a five R’s mnemonic to remind US personnel of their responsibilities: Recognize, Refrain, React, Record, and Report. If US personnel in any of the 35 countries in the US Southern Command witness a violation of human rights, they are required to report it immediately to U.S. embassy personnel. Additionally, US Southern Command requires US military personnel traveling into the command’s area of responsibility to undergo mandatory training on human rights before they deploy.
Additionally, the US Southern Command’s tenant units offer significant training and education opportunities on human rights and international humanitarian law. The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in Fort Benning, Georgia graduated 2,000 students in 2014. The school offers 15 courses that range from three weeks to 47 weeks in length. Each course has a mandatory human rights and IHL component that is at least eight hours in length. It also offers a 4-week long course on International Operational Law that is offered four times per year. The William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies is US Southern Command’s regional academic center. It offers specialized human rights and IHL training during resident phase courses as well as during downrange events with a number of Latin American and Caribbean government countries. It’s two-week long residence phase course touches on important topics such as IHL, regional and international human rights organizations, the rule of law, and transitional justice.
In order to promote human rights with its partners, the State Department also publishes human rights reports on each country and, in some cases, links foreign assistance to human rights adherence.