Human Rights First Mourns Human Rights Champion Senator Dianne Feinstein

WASHINGTON – With the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Human Rights First pays tribute to her profoundly important work and the indelible mark she left on human rights issues. Among the critical issues she was a pivotal ally, Human Rights First counted on Feinstein’s leadership in confronting torture, addressing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, protecting unaccompanied children and victims of human trafficking, and championing the protection of LGBTQI rights.

“The world is better for Senator Feinstein’s leadership on human rights, and with her passing, the U.S. Senate will miss her strong voice for accountability,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “She was Human Rights First’s vital ally on so many issues; it was our honor to award her and Senator John McCain our Beacon Prize for releasing a landmark report on the U.S. use of torture during the post-9/11 era. The United States is also in her debt for her leadership to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, bar torture, and protect victims of human trafficking. May her memory be a blessing.”

As the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman, Feinstein demonstrated an unwavering commitment to transparency, accountability, and the prohibition of inhumane practices. In 2014, she played a pivotal role in releasing a comprehensive report on the CIA’s use of torture during the post-9/11 era that revealed the extent of abusive interrogation techniques employed by the agency.

Feinstein worked in a bipartisan effort with Senator McCain to champion anti-torture legislation. The 2016 McCain-Feinstein Amendment reinforced the ban on using cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Their shared commitment to human dignity and their rejection of torture as a means of interrogation showcased rare bipartisan unity on an issue of profound moral significance.

As a champion for an accountable and rights-respecting approach to national security, Feinstein showed a deep-seated commitment to justice and fairness. A staunch advocate for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, Feinstein consistently raised concerns about the ethical implications and legal challenges posed by the indefinite detention of individuals without trial at Guantanamo.

Feinstein’s early leadership to protecting unaccompanied children and victims of trafficking created a range of rights-respecting laws that ensure the United States treats children and survivors of trafficking humanely, fairly, and with care. Feinstein was also a leader in the effort to protect survivors of intimate partner violence.

She pioneered LGBTQI rights in the United States, providing many years of Senate leadership on LGBTQI protections and equality. Among her many efforts, she was one of few senators to provide early opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and was the Senate lead on the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced to repeal the harmful legislation.

Finally, Feinstein also stood up to antisemitism and sexism throughout her career, beginning during her tenure as Mayor of San Francisco when she visited Europe’s oldest Jewish ghetto and called for the public to condemn antisemitism.


Published on September 29, 2023


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