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100 days

April 30, 2009

How much can a man do in 100 days? At least 17 things, according to Amnesty International. Exactly how much has Obama done to improve the appalling US human rights record in his first 100 days in office?

In a recent comment, CNN’s  Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour states that while Obama has not managed in 100 days to defeat Islamic militants, usher in a Middle East peace treaty or disarm North Korea, he has begun restoring America’s name and reputation by returning the United States to leading on human rights, not cherry-picking them. Exactly how true is this?

Great expectations

Not even Obama’s fiercest supporters can really have expected him to disarm North Korea or broker a peace treaty in the Middle East during his first 100 days as US president. However, not only American voters but organizations and ordinary citizens all around the globe had high hopes and great expectations for what Mr. Obama could and would do as US president. While editors wrote editorials, bloggers blogged and talkers talked, the good people at Amnesty International sat down and wrote a list. In 17 simple points, they called on Mr. Obama to close Guantanamo, end illegal detention, eradicate torture and end impunity for crimes under international law, such as torture and enforced disappearance.

At the end of the 100 days, it is clear that the Obama administration has taken significant steps in the right direction, including some to undo the damaging detention and interrogation policies developed under the previous administration.

– President Obama’s  actions – within 48 hours of taking office – to close Guantánamo within a year and end secret CIA detentions were very welcome,  said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

However, the Obama administration has not done nearly enough to restore America’s name or return the United States to leading on human rights, as Amanpour puts it.

– Closure and disclosure will not be complete until the US Government follows through by ending all unlawful detentions, bringing to justice all those responsible for torture and other serious human rights violations carried out during the Bush administration, and providing real remedies to victims, Irene Khan stated on Amnesty International’s web site.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

For the first time, the US government is beginning to admit that the US did indeed torture prisoners . This is a huge leap in the right direction. However,  to make sure that such atrocities do not happen again, president Obama needs to do more than confess the sins of his predecessor . To turn the page on these blatant human rights violations, we need to understand exactly what happened, and why.

Human Rights First and other leading human rights organizations have created a petition calling on President Obama to set up a nonpartisan inquiry to evaluate the full cost of American torture, look at how it could happen, and come up with safeguards so that the current administration does not repeat the  mistakes of the previous one. Please let president Obama know that the public wants to know the truth about torture. Sign the petition here!

Photo: James O’ Malley

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