WASHINGTON (Combined Sources)– The State Department rejected part of a US loan guarantee for an American company to sell $45 million in armored personnel vehicles to Turkey’s national police because of alleged human rights abuses–a US official said Monday.
The Clinton administration’s decision marked the latest test of a law enacted in 1996 that prohibits US funds from aiding units of foreign security forces that have been involved in human rights abuses. Previously–the law prohibited US aid to the Colombian army.
AV Technology–a Michigan-based subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp.–had sought $38 million in loan guarantees from the US export-import Bank for the transaction–involving 140 vehicles. Ex-Im Bank officials asked the State Department to review the deal to determine whether it violated the law because some of Turkey’s national police units have been accused of torture and other human rights abuses. Sen. Patrick Leahy–(D-Vt) who had sponsored the law said that enforcement of the law "sends the strong message that both Congress and the administration see human rights as an important element of our foreign policy."
The main objection against granting the loan is made–in an internal State Department document–to provinces "where state-sponsored torture is a longstanding and pervasive practice." Eleven Turkish provinces are cited–including main metropolises such as Istanbul and Adana.
Nevertheless–following the State Department move–General Dynamics completed the deal with its own financing. But it sparked fiery debates within the government. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Mark Parris–Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.)–whose state manufactures the vehicles–and General Dynamics executives argued that the decision "would increase Turkey’s hostility to human rights and jeopardize U.S. business and national security interests."
According to the Washington Post–State Department officials said they did not expect the law to drastically alter Washington’s deep involvement with Turkey–which they described as a NATO ally to which the United States has sold or given more than $15 billion worth of weapons since 1980.
The paper also stated the State Department–in anticipation of the future debate over policy–recently set up an interagency group to work out how to implement the Leahy law–which applies to most military assistance and–after its scope was expanded by Congress in 1998–to all military training activities funded by the Defense Department. The paper said that Washington still regards Turkey as a strategically important ally–which serves as a "gatekeeper between the secular West and the increasingly fundamentalist Middle East."
One of the strongest opponents of the State Department policy–Sen. Levin–a member on the Senate Armed Services Committee–urged the U.S. government to support the entire sale–asserting that there is no evidence to suggest that the vehicles would be used in human rights abuses–and that forfeiting the deal would diminish U.S. influence over future progress on human rights.
This isn’t the only instance of the US government refusing funds to Turkey–in 1996–Turkey canceled a planned purchase of 10 U.S. Super Cobra helicopters when Congress–concerned about human rights–delayed the deal.