The false choice between safety and ideals

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."

So said President Obama in his inspiring inauguration speech; campaign rhetoric tempered by the reality of the challenges he, his country and the world faces.

In pointing up the false dichotomy of 'safety' versus 'ideals', the new President echoed Amnesty's call through the years since September 11 2001, that human rights are the friend, not the enemy, of human security.

In his first hundred days, by closing Guantánamo, ending torture and setting up an independent investigation into US ‘war on terror’ abuses, President Obama can make concrete human rights reforms a reality. But, a longer-term change in the US and international approaches to counter-terrorism is also required.

So what lessons can be learned from Northern Ireland's recent past and what must we do to make a safer, more just world?

That is the theme which will be explored in a session which Amnesty is leading at the Belfast end of the Convention on Modern Liberty, taking place at the end of February.

The Convention, with a main event happening in London and satellite events taking place simultaneously around the UK, will be a gathering together of many people concerned with the erosion of rights and liberties in this country and internationally.

In Belfast, Amnesty and the Law School at Queen's have teamed up to stage an impressive local line-up of sessions and speakers (experts and activists) to echo those which will also be heard via live video-feed from London. We will release more details of the Northern Ireland event in the days ahead and registration will open shortly. Keep an eye on the Amnesty website for more details, School of Law or the Convention on Modern Liberty websites

Meanwhile, let's think about what we can do to make the most of this opportunity to hold the new administration to its promises and to make the world safer for citizens of all countries.

Think not what human rights can do for you, think what you can do for human rights. Or something like that.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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