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The US on torture: change we can believe in?

They went barmy in Berlin. It was delirium in Deutschland.

Ok, so Barack Obama is looking like the world’s “hottest” politician. Or at least the most popular foreign one in Germany. The “JFK in ’63” comparisons are everywhere. This is feeding frenzy stuff.

Well, I’ve no problem with any of that (meanwhile for a more in-depth look at Obamania: read Paddy's blog), except are we going to get change we can believe in from either him or John McCain on the big “war on terror”/torture/secret detention/Guantanamo issue?

According to Shane Danielson, CIF’ing yesterday in the Guardian, Barack in Berlin got “a particularly loud ovation” (and no barracking!) when he talked of a future US administration "rejecting torture and standing for the rule of law".

A good message, certainly, but what will it mean? As president would Obama authorise a full independent investigation, for example, into all alleged instances of US operatives, or sub-contractors torturing or ill-treating prisoners in the “war on terror”? Will every instance of waterboarding be checked into, all video-tapes and other evidence brought to light, and all perpetrators punished?

Words are after all a lot easier than action. Earlier this year John McCain (who was himself tortured in Vietnam of course) condemned waterboarding. Both McCain and Obama have said they’d close Guantánamo, but then again so has George Bush – the question is when and in what circumstances?

Unquestionably there’s a huge amount for either McCain or Obama to do to improve the USA’s badly tarnished human rights record come next January.

Obama’s “JFK moment” has had newspaper editors luxuriating in their Cuban missile crisis copy – but a key test next year for him or McCain is the present-day Cuba crisis of Guantanamo. Will the next president have the courage to close it immediately and ensure proper federal trials or safe release?

One person who desperately needs to know the answer to this is Binyam Mohamed, one of three UK residents still trapped at the camp. There are fresh claims today that the US has been stringing the UK government along over his being kept in solitary.

It’s yet more reason to fear that not only is he never going to get a fair trial there, but neither he is going to get the help he needs from this government. 

It was his birthday (some birthday!) yesterday. Shockingly, he’s now been at the camp for six years. To add to all this, we understand that his mental health is now extremely fragile.

Please send an urgent message to David Miliband calling for him to ask the US authorities to transfer Binyam to a less oppressive part of Guantanamo.

Auf wiedersehen pets!

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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