HRW urges Obama to repudiate “abusive” counter-terror policies

In a Nov. 16 statement, Human Rights Watch said that upon inauguration US president-elect Barack Obama should immediately repudiate the previous administration’s “abusive” counter-terrorism policies in order to bring US practices into accordance with the country’s “basic values” and its own obligations under international law. HRW released a report delineating the 11 measures Obama should pursue, including closing the military prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, abolishing military commissions in favor of trying terrorist suspects in federal court, issuing an executive order banning “all torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” in CIA interrogations, and rejecting the “global war on terror” as a legal justification for the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects.

HRW said:

Over the past seven years, the US government’s consistent disregard for human rights in fighting terrorism has diminished America’s moral authority, set a negative example for other governments, and undermined the goal of reducing anti-American militancy around the world. The use of torture, unlawful rendition, secret prisons, unfair trials, and long-term, arbitrary detention without charge has been both morally wrong and counterproductive.

By making a high-profile, public commitment to a new course, and by taking bold steps toward reform, [Obama] can signal to the nation and to the world that his administration understands that US counterterrorism policy should be consistent with the country’s basic values and with international law.

In an interview with 60 Minutes Nov. 16, the President-elect reinforced his campaign promises, maintaining:

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 [sic] make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.

Last week, the ACLU initiated an ad campaign calling on Obama to close Guantánamo Bay and the use of military commissions on his first day in office. Advisers to Obama said last week that no final decisions have been made regarding closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison, despite earlier media reports that a plan was being developed. (Jurist, Nov. 17)

At the ACLU’s Close Gitmo page, readers can sign an open letter asking Obama to sign an order shutting down Guantánamo on his first day in office. The page banner contains the following quote:

“As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions”
—Barack Obama, 8/1/07

See our last posts on the Guantánamo Bay and the politics of the GWOT.