Looking Forward: Ending Torture Under President Obama

With the celebratory cheers brought on by the decisive election of Barack Obama on Tuesday night fading, we are turning our sights on the transition to his inauguration, and the steps necessary to implement some of the promises made on the campaign trail. Although President-elect Obama faces a variety of challenges starting January 20, overhauling the Bush Administration’s most aggressive detention and interrogation policies, including the secret prison network run by the CIA, is among the most urgent.

HRF has called on the President-elect to address these issues right away:

“The erosion of human rights protections in the United States in the aftermath of September 11th has had a profound impact on human rights standards around the world,” said Elisa Massimino, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First. “We urge President-elect Obama promptly to turn the page on the policies of torture and other abuse that have deprived the United States of its ability to lead on human rights for the past seven years.”

Although some advisers acknowledge that the economic crisis may siphon his attention away from foreign policy efforts, these are issues on which Obama placed heavy emphasis during his campaign, and the President-elect’s team told the LA Times that they expect his early moves to be “appreciated overseas, and create a more favorable environment for the new administration right at the start.”

Addressing detainee treatment and interrogation policies and closing Guantanamo would provide a needed break from the past. The world has so soured on the Bush Administration that foreign leaders are suspicious of American proposals, “even when they’re good ones,” an advisor added.

Obama has declared that the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba should be closed and that detainees should be handled through the U.S. military justice system, and also supported increased oversight of the secret CIA detention program and efforts to promote a single standard of humane interrogation techniques that would restrict the CIA to interrogation techniques used by the military. But there’s a lot of difficult work ahead – and this is where organizations like HRF come in, to keep the pressure on, and to help sort out the details. In the new environment of an Obama Administration, we expect our views to be taken seriously.

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Published on November 6, 2008

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