Human Rights First Statement on the Seventh Anniversary of September 11
Today we mark the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The new Pentagon Memorial, which is being dedicated this morning, is the first of the permanent memorials to be completed at the sites of the attacks. In future years, memorials also will be built in Lower Manhattan and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. We join with others in the United States and all around the world in remembering the tragic deaths of nearly 3000 people that day seven years ago, and in expressing our heartfelt condolences to their families.
As we commemorate the terrible events of September 11, 2001, we also stop to consider how the world has responded to the continued threat to global security posed by al Qaeda and other violent groups. We acknowledge the duty of every government to keep its citizenry safe, and we note that over the past seven years the United States has taken a number of prudent steps to enhance security and combat the threat of terrorism.
But the U.S. government’s post-September 11 national security policies also have been defined by a dramatic expansion of executive power and by the unacceptable and self-defeating erosion of the most fundamental American values and international human rights norms: liberty, equality, and human rights. The illegal use of torture and other cruel interrogation techniques, the prolonged detention without charge of terrorist suspects, and the expansion of government secrecy in connection with such activities all violate core human rights standards, hamper efforts to promote human rights and the rule of law around the word, and ultimately harm national security by undermining counterterrorism efforts.
The continued assertion by the current administration that the president can authorize abusive interrogations of prisoners in U.S. custody using techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions is particularly disturbing. The U.S. military has rejected these techniques as illegal, ineffective and counterproductive. Experienced interrogators, former intelligence and national security officials, and retired military leaders agree. Human Rights First will persist in calling for adherence to a single standard of humane treatment for prisoners in U.S. custody that applies across all U.S. government agencies. Recently, more than a dozen retired generals and admirals traveled to the Democratic and Republican national conventions to deliver this message in public fora in order to ensure that the next commander-in-chief understands that the use of torture does immense harm to the reputation and moral authority of the United States, to members of its own armed forces, and to national security.
The U.S. government’s retreat over the last seven years from bedrock legal principles and fundamental human rights obligations has impaired its ability to fight terrorism and promote human rights. On this anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we urge Congress and the next president to reject torture, to restore the commitment to the rule of law, and to reclaim American’s role as a world leader in the struggle for human rights.