Our request and hope for the new Barack Obama administration ～related to human rights and justice～
On January 20th 2009, Mr. Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States.
Human Rights Now (HRN), a Tokyo based international human rights NGO hopes the new administration will put an end to the regrettable human rights policies conducted in the name of the “War on Terror” during the eight-year Bush administration and will restore peace and fundamental human rights in the world.
Under the Bush administration, serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were left without accountability. HRN asks the new administration to fight against impunity and restore justice and accountability for those violations.
Immediate Closure of Guantanamo Detention Camp
The Detention Camp has been infamous for its role as a base for US human rights violations such as extensive torture and abuse against “terrorist suspects” in the course of interrogation, indefinite detention and violation of the right to a fair trial.
HRN welcomes that Mr. Obama announced that his administration will soon close Guantanamo Detention Camp and refrain for good from torturing people.
The New administration should keep Obama’s promise to close the camp as one of its first actions in office and announce details of the schedule and a fixed date for the closure.
In cases where reasonable grounds for guilt based on evidence have been established, the suspect should be entitled to a fair trial before a federal court. Otherwise, all detainees should be immediately released. As a signatory to the Convention against Torture, the new US government must not forcibly repatriate detainees to their home countries, many of which are known for their human rights abuses.
Immediate Closure of All other Secret Detention Centres
Besides Guantanamo Bay, it has become evident that the United States is also maintaining other secret detention centres throughout the world. Concerning these centres, the new government should provide clear information on the location and the identities of the detainees, as well as the circumstances of their detention. We ask for immediate closure of all those centres and immediate release of those prisoners whose guilt is not beyond any doubt.
Accountability for Human Rights Violations in the Course of the “War on Terror”
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States has been engaged in serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
Since 9/11, in the name of “the War on Terror”, innocent civilians have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US attacked civilian- and non-military targets, used inhumane weapons such as depleted uranium and white-phosphorus bullets, at least some of which comprise as war crimes. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), in a October 2007 report, urged “all credible allegations of unlawful killings by MNF forces [to] be thoroughly, promptly and impartially investigated, and appropriate action [to] be taken against military personnel found to have used excessive or indiscriminate force,” However, no measures have taken place so far.
Torture and indefinite detention of terrorism suspects in Guantanamo Bay and at other disclosed and undisclosed locations worldwide constitute serious violation of the Geneva Convention. In December last year (2008), the US Senate Armed Services Committeepublished a report that makes clear that the torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners was not a breach of discipline or law by some soldiers, but instead promoted by then-Defence Minister Donald Rumsfeld and his deputies.
Top officials who are responsible for grave breaches of the Geneva Convention must be investigated and prosecuted.
HRN urges the new Obama administration to establish an independent investigation panel for cases in connection with all war crimes connected to the “War on Terror” in order to carry out a serious investigation of violations committed, to identify those responsible, to prosecute all those high officials involved in the violations and ensure apology and adequate compensation to the victims.
Additionally, HRN requests the new administration to establish concrete measures to prevent a recurrence of human rights violations in the course of the “War on Terror” and to implement them subsequently. HRN is especially concerned about the situation in Afghanistan, to which Mr. Obama announced his will to extend military operations.
Participation in the International Criminal Court
Further, HRN would like to express a strong plea towards the Obama government to join the ICC. The International Criminal Court is the first permanent international court in history to be established in order to prosecute individuals for grave human rights abuses, and stands as an indispensable organization to fairly carry out and assure international law in accordance with the international community’s wishes. At present, 108 countries worldwide are members of the ICC. The joining of the United States would send the biggest signal against war crimes. The ICC can establish universal legitimacy by carrying out fair and impartial justice on all grave violations of human rights, disregarding geographical or national factors. By joining the ICC, the US can contribute to enhance legitimacy of the ICC.
Concerning the Security Council
Wherever there grave human rights occur in the case of an invasion, the new administration should not be a barrier to the UN efforts toward restoring peace, security and human rights. The US has a long history of using its veto power in Security Council decisions against its allies, most extensively concerning the Israel-Palestine issue. This sometimes encourages further human rights violations and war crimes. We ask the new administration to refrain from the abusive use of veto power in the future.
In these eight years of the Bush administration, the “War on Terror” divided the world and the international community into areas of “good” and “evil”. The distrust between the West and Islamic countries is therefore quite serious.
Human Rights Now hopes the first African-American President, Mr. Barack Obama, will play a meaningful role to build an united international society which embraces tolerance and respect for the principle of equal rights of peoples in the world while pursuing justice and fairness globally.