Wanted: US Leadership to Prevent Genocide

Dear President-elect Obama,

As a candidate for president, you clearly stated how you will respond to mass atrocities and genocide:

“The United States has a moral obligation anytime you see humanitarian catastrophes. We are the most powerful nation in the world. We have the most stake in creating an order in the world that is stable and in which people have hope in opportunity. And when you see a genocide, whether it’s in Rwanda, or Bosnia, or Darfur, that’s a stain on all of us. That’s a stain on our souls. (…) We can’t say ‘never again’ and then allow it to happen again. And as President of the United States, I don’t intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye to slaughter.

With your victory in the presidential elections, you will soon have a chance to put your words into action. And that’s not where the good news ends. To tackle the challenges ahead, the Genocide Prevention Task Force, a group of experts including staff from Amnesty International, worked for a year to develop a practical framework to assist you in responding to genocide and mass atrocities. The task force, jointly convened by the United States Holocaust Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and US Institute of Peace, released its final report today. Co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, the report makes several key recommendations in the areas of early warning, preventive diplomacy, the use or threat of force and the power of international action.

However, all these areas are topped by one priority: “Nothing is more central to preventing genocide than leadership – from the president, Congress and the American people. Making progress requires leaders to summon political will not only after a crisis strikes, but also before one emerges.” Coming from a country in which genocide was perpetrated more than 60 years ago, I could not agree more.

In addition to carefully studying the report’s recommendations, I urge you to recall the following quote by Martin Luther King: “The greatest sin of our time is not the few who have destroyed but the vast majority who’ve sat idly by.”

I hope you get a chance to take a look at the report soon – I’d be happy to send you a copy. Let me know what you think!



A Stronger US Stance Against Mass Atrocities?

With every day that passes, grave human rights violations continue in places like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burma. President-elect Barack Obama’s recent personnel decisions have fostered speculations that we will see a stronger US stance against the mass atrocities that are perpetrated in these countries.

Obama’s most recent pick: Today, he nominated Susan Rice as US Ambassador to the United Nations. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007, Rice has described US policy towards the crisis in Darfur as “Inaction in the Face of Genocide”. Jerry Fowler of the Save Darfur Coalition praised the appointment and said Obama’s decision “sends a very strong signal about his approach to the issue of Sudan and Africa in general”.

Recently, Obama selected Samantha Power as a member of the Agency Review Team that will review the US State Department to make policy, budgetary and personnel recommendations. With her seminal work, A problem from hell. America and the Age of Genocide, Power has inspired scores of people in this country – including myself – to act against mass atrocities.

Will Rice and Power’s expertise and commitment to stopping mass atrocities be enough to actually change the priorities of US foreign policy?

Posted in USA

Obama Renews Comittment to Human Rights on 60 Minutes

The tide of American politics is changing. That much is clear.

Barack Obama has inspired Americans to renew their faith in their country and has repeatedly stated that he will act to renew the moral standing of the United States in the world.

“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture. And I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.”

-President-elect Barack Obama on CBS’s 60 Minutes Sunday, Nov. 16th, 2008

What is unclear is whether or not inspiration and statements will translate into results. As we ride the wave of hope into the next administration, it is crucial that we turn the momentum into concrete action.

Amnesty International is asking that within the first 100 days of his Presidency, Barack Obama:

  • -announce a plan and date to close Guantanamo
  • -issue an executive order to ban tortue
  • -ensure that an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the U.S. government in its “war on terror” is set up

The same grassroots energy that propeled Barack Obama to victory can now be the driving force behind America’s renewed commitment to human rights. Act now.