It is debatable whether the term human rights has been heard more the 5 times in the course of the 2012 elections. When it has been uttered, the candidates who said it quickly moved on to other issues or submerged it in a list of foreign policy crises. One is left to wonder if human rights are still a priority, let alone a pillar of U.S. foreign or domestic policy.
The 2012 elections are taking place against the backdrop of unprecedented turmoil and challenges to the respect and promotion of human rights and arguably a vacuum of leadership in support of those principles domestically and internationally.
One need only look at the headlines in the news to see examples of where the human rights analysis is missing.
There is the ongoing crisis in Syria, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in the brutal crackdown by the government following protests for political reform.
There is the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the implications for women’s rights even as the U.S. and its allies negotiate their withdrawal.
There is the 10th anniversary in January of the arrival of the first war on terror detainees at the Guantanamo detention facility, which passed with little discussion or debate, followed last month by the death of Adnan Farhan Latif, who had been held there for over a decade, without ever being charged or brought to trial.
Amnesty International USA has published 12 for 2012, twelve questions that focus on the missing human rights agenda in the 2012 elections. The questions are aimed at encouraging the current political debates to ask the candidates whether they will commit to ensure that the Unites States will be a champion for human rights and include questions on closing Guantanamo, ending unlawful killing with drones, adopting a global Arms Trade Treaty, supporting the International Criminal Court, pursuing human rights-based immigration reform, signing an Executive Order on human rights, and several others.
What you can do
The first presidential debate will take place on Wednesday, October 3 at 9PM EST and will be moderated by Jim Lehrer of the PBS NewsHour. Help us put human rights in to the 2012 election. Tell Mr. Lehrer (firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @newsHour) to ask the candidates one of these 12 important questions. For example you could tweet:
You can also download and share our Presidential Debates Human Rights Bingo cards to follow along at home!