At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.
As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.
Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Late last night, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law with provisions that restrict the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and further impede closure of the prison. Furthermore, nothing was done to correct provisions in last year’s NDAA that further entrench indefinite military detention, unfair trials, and the U.S. government’s “global war” framework, in U.S. law.
The “global war” framework— which holds that the U.S. government is engaged in a global, pervasive, never-ending “war” with al-Qaeda and other vaguely defined groups and individuals—was first articulated by the Bush administration and has been embraced by the Obama administration.
Today, Congress again failed to uphold the U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. It passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with provisions that would gravely hinder the effort to close Guantanamo prison, and would further entrench indefinite detention.
If enacted, this crucial piece of legislation would require the Department of Defense to develop a three-part strategy to promote and support the security of Afghan women and girls during and after the security transition process. The bill would support Afghan women’s rights by:
• Improving monitoring and response to women’s security conditions.
• Increasing recruitment and retention of women in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by reducing barriers to women’s participation.
• Improving gender sensitivity among ANSF personnel by requiring training related to the human rights of women and girls and by strengthening enforcement and accountability.
Last weekend the State Department released a draft copy of a highly critical internal memo about the CIA’s use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that had long since been believed lost to posterity.
The draft, written by State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow in 2006, was uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the former Washington Independent reporter Spencer Ackerman. The final memo had been considered so explosive that the Bush administration instructed every single copy be collected and destroyed.
The memo was prepared in response to the passage of new legislation through Congress – the McCain amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act – that prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading (CID) treatment or punishment. There was no way for the Bush administration to avoid the need to reevaluate the CIA black site program against a CID standard.
Wednesday, January 11 marked 10 years since the US government brought the first twenty Muslim men to the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in order to detain and interrogate them outside of the law.
There has been a great deal of confusion over whether the indefinite detention provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) apply to US citizens or not – the simple answer is that it is too early to tell.
The NDAA provisions greatly strengthen a framework for detaining suspected members of Al Qaeda or its affiliates that is derived from the law of armed conflict. Under the law of armed conflict belligerents can be detained until the conflict ends or until they no longer pose a threat.
The NDAA drafters draw a clear distinction between US citizens and non-US citizens which is itself problematic since equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles of justice and a core human right.
The NDAA “requires” that non-US citizens be treated as enemy combatants rather than as criminal suspects unless the President issues a waiver in the interests of national security.
The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday 283 -136. The bill will make President Obama the first President since the red scare in the McCarthy era to sign a law to introduce indefinite detention in the US. It will keep the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, open potentially forever.
The Non Detention Act of 1971 was introduced specifically to address the indignities suffered by Japanese Americans interned during WW2 and the NDAA is the first bill to seek to actively turn that page back.
Ten years after the attacks of 9-11 with Osama Bin Laden finally removed from the equation, do we really need more draconian powers to undermine the liberties of US citizens? And why would we place that trust in this government, or blindly hand it to a future administration.
Provisions that were snuck into the bill with little notice from mainsteam media could spell indefinite detention without a hearing, keep Guantanamo open, and hinder fair trials. With your help, we can ensure that human rights violating provisions in the draft bill do not become law.