Change from Obama but let us keep up the pressure

At last!  Barack Obama is now the president of the United States after that long wait from winning the election.  Much hope is pinned on him. The inauguration speech showed some of the fresh thinking that he offers.  (Did he really do that whole speech without any notes?)  Human rights campaigners need to keep up the pressure to ensure that the action matches the speeches we have heard and the words we have read. 

One of Obama's strengths is that he listens to his opponents and does not vilify them even if he disagrees strongly with their policies.  He seemed to be respectful towards George W Bush but of course many of the Bush policies are going to be overturned now that Obama is the new president.

When he spoke of religion in his speech he noted that the USA is diverse in its people, including Christians, Moslems and Jews as well as those who do not hold a religious faith.  He is of course the first black president of the USA but he also has a connection with Islam as shown by his middle name, Hussein.  He made a very brief but respectful mention of the Moslem regions of the world and hopes to be able to work with those governments and people.  The USA's relations with the Arab world should be helped by Obama's declaration that US forces are to be withdrawn from Iraq to leave its people to govern themselves. 

The relations between the USA and the Arab world have been soured by the apparent bias about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  Israel seems to be allowed to do whatever it likes and is backed by the USA at the United Nations.  One example is the recent call for a ceasefire agreed by the members of the Security Council except for the abstention of the USA.  Barack Obama has said that he is serious about trying to help to resolve the conflict but he has also said that he sees Israel as an important ally. 

President Obama has already ordered that Guantanamo Bay should be closed within a year.  That prison on the island of Cuba has been one of the issues that has angered people around the world and has drawn strong protest from Amnesty and from others. 

Obama offers much hope for human rights but what more should we be asking?  Again I bring up the School of Americas.  It is another scandal on a par with Guantanamo as I see it.  Not much attention seems to be given to it in the media.  Amnesty International does not seem to say much about it.  To find out about the campaign against the School of the Americas go to SOAW.

I hope that Barack Obama will see that a college that teaches military and police staff from Latin America and has many serious abuses of human rights committed by its graduates must be closed down urgently. 

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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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