Obama Urged to Renew U.S. Respect for Human Rights - Posted: December 9, 2008
WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (OneWorld.net) - An international group of human rights defenders has appealed to President-elect Barack Obama to renew the U.S. commitment to human rights "that has been abandoned" since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
During the seven years of the United States' so-called "war on terror," President George W. Bush has not only continued to defend the indefinite detention of Guantanamo prisoners, but also justified abusive practices by U.S. officials that experts on human rights law have classified as torture. In contrast, just weeks after the election, in an interview with CBS television Obama reiterated his intention to close Guantanamo, but did not explain how and when he would do so. He added: "I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I am going to make sure that we don't torture." Rights advocates are asking Obama to follow through on such statements by issuing an executive order prohibiting torture and unlawful detention within the first 100 days of his presidency. OneWorld.net reports.
U.S. civil society groups are also hopeful that the election of Barack Obama will place issues of energy and the environment, human rights at home and abroad, and aid for the world's poorest high on the change agenda he promised during the campaign, reports Alison Raphael for OneWorld.net. In addition to taking swift action on torture, Human Rights Watch argues that Obama's government must seek to bring U.S. policies and practices in line with international human rights and humanitarian law, and restore respect for human rights as a "central pillar of U.S. foreign policy."
Human Rights Leaders Urge President-Elect Obama to Renew U.S. Commitments to Human Rights
From: The Carter Center
Dec. 3, 2008
ATLANTA…An international group of human rights organizations and human rights defenders meeting at The Carter Center today issued an urgent appeal for President-elect Barack Obama to renew U.S. commitments to human rights principles and practices that have been abandoned since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States.
"In our efforts to defend ourselves against terror, the United States has abandoned the human rights principles it has long championed," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "We must renew our national commitment to human rights and encourage the international community to support the work of human rights defenders worldwide, whose efforts have been undermined by the U.S. example in recent years."
The groups specific recommendations, coming on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Dec. 10, included:
* Ending the policy of indefinite detention without due process for detainees at Guantánamo Bay by trying those who accused of committing crimes and repatriating and resettling those cleared for release, as well as abolishing military commissions.
* Issuing an Executive Order to enforce existing law prohibiting torture by any agent of the U.S. government that mandates that interrogations be carried out in a manner consistent with the Army Field Manual. * Establishing an independent nonpartisan commission to examine U.S. interrogation and detention practices.
* Once the United States takes these steps, it will be able to regain a position of leadership so badly needed to address human rights calamities unfolding in Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and elsewhere.
* The United States should place human rights issues at the center of its bi-lateral relationships with other countries, with an emphasis on the protection of human rights defenders.
* The United States should engage in robust engagement with the U.N. Human Rights Council, which must be the pre-eminent forum for human rights.
Human rights defenders attending the forum were on the one hand daunted by the precipitous deterioration of rights in their countries yet cautiously optimistic by the transformational figure they see in President-elect Obama. While their experiences are quite different, their calls to the new president resonate with many common themes concerning the promotion and protection of human rights and are summarized in the following report.
They also made very specific proposals for U.S. policy toward their countries that will be incorporated into a full conference report and forwarded to the incoming Obama administration.
"The United States and other governments have expanded executive power at the expense of the legislature and the courts. Experience shows that if checks and balances are not adequate the margin of abuse is high. There is a clear need to protect them, "added U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, who co-chaired the meeting with President Carter.
The Carter Center forum brought together some of the most effective human rights defenders from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Indonesia, Columbia Brazil, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Nigeria, as well as leaders of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Constitution Project, International Center for Transitional Justice, Physicians for Human Rights, The Open Society Institute, Center for Victims of Torture, Center for Constitutional Rights, national Religious Campaign against torture, and others.
Following is the complete statement issued by the group of 50 leaders.
For more information on the work of human rights defenders in specific countries worldwide visit:
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