Former UU President offers Human Rights Agenda to Obama

Rev. William F. Schulz is in a position to do this because he is also a former Executive Director of Amensty International USA, the American wing of the Amensty International, the worldwide human rights organization. Schulz is currently senior fellow in human-rights policy at the Center for American Progress. These human rights priorities all come from what amounts to an open letter of sorts, suggesting a human rights agenda, to the incoming President Obama in today’s Boston Globe:

Announce the closure of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay at a date certain. John McCain also favored the shutting down of GITMO and, though it may take some time to figure out how best to process or prosecute the remaining prisoners, setting a date to close the camp will send a powerful message of intention, just as President-elect Obama’s commitment to get out of Iraq in a specified period of time has done.

Extend the ban on torture to the intelligence services. Congress put a lid on the use of torture by the military but President Bush indicated that prohibition would not apply to the intelligence services. President Obama should make clear that it does.

Send the secretary of state to Sudan. The United States has denounced the mass atrocities in Darfur but failed to mount a concerted effort to stop them. The new secretary of state should make Khartoum the first foreign destination and should deliver a firm message of resolve. Appointing a high-level US envoy (Colin Powell?) to shepherd a renewed initiative to bring peace to Darfur would reinforce Obama’s seriousness in resolving the crisis.

“Re-sign” the International Criminal Court treaty. In one of the most bizarre actions of the Bush presidency, the United States sought to remove President Clinton’s signature from the treaty establishing the court. By “withdrawing the letter of withdrawal” and committing to send representatives to the 2009 Review Conference that will consider amendments to the court’s statutes, the new administration can seek adjustments that would make eventual ratification by the Senate more likely.

Reappoint observers to the UN Human Rights Council. While the council has been a disappointment to almost everyone and the United States has chosen not to stand for election to it, last June the Bush administration went so far as to remove even observers from the council’s meetings. Such petty detachment gains us nothing and comes across as hubris. The new president should reverse the decision.

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