President-Elect Obama should make a clean break with human rights abuses of past

New ‘checklist’ of human rights reforms issued

Amnesty International has today urged US President-elect Barack Obama to make a clean break with the human rights abuses of the past.

Having already requested an early meeting with the President-elect to discuss the human rights agenda of the new administration, Amnesty is insisting that the new administration should make human rights central to its work. In particular, it will be calling on the new government to take concrete steps during the first 100 days of the new presidency in an effort to bring the USA into line with its international obligations.

Amnesty is specifically calling on the new administration to:

* announce a plan and date for the closure of the detention centre at Guantánamo

* issue an executive order to ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law, making this applicable to all US agents

* announce that it will set up an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the USA in its “war on terror”

These demands form part of a “checklist” of actions Amnesty International is asking the new US President to take during his first 100 days in office.

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said:

“President-elect Obama must make a clean break from the US government’s detention policies and practices adopted by the previous administration.

“Millions of people, politicians and religious leaders in the United States and across the world are demanding these changes. Now is the time to make them happen.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox said:

“President-elect Obama must reverse the damage done at home and abroad by the US government’s unlawful actions in the name of national security.

“The US government’s policies during the past eight years have violated the basic rights of thousands of individuals, damaged the United States’ credibility on human rights issues and strained diplomatic relations. With the entire world watching, and the election of a new President and Congress, it's time to commit the United States to its international obligations and ensure that the rule of law will be the foundation for its policies.”

Amnesty International is also urging President-elect Obama to push forward policies that will advance internationally recognised human rights. Amnesty will be urging the new US government to provide principled leadership in stopping mass atrocities against civilians in places such as Darfur, in ending the continued violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in the USA and abroad, and in supporting human rights defenders and the international system of justice with the International Criminal Court at its heart.

Larry Cox added:

“Human rights must be an integral aspect of every policy, action and issue embarked on by President-elect Obama and his administration. Although the current economic circumstances will dominate much of the public debate and international agenda, a strong and vigilant human rights agenda must also be a priority. The importance of reversing the legacy of the US as a human rights abuser cannot be overstated."

Irene Khan added:

"The new administration must focus on righting some of the wrongs of the Bush administration and restoring the US as a human rights champion at home and abroad.”

During the first 100 days of the new administration, Amnesty International will be mobilising its members and supporters in the USA and around the world to call on the new US President and Congress to take immediate steps to demonstrate a commitment to human rights and urgently address pressing issues at home and abroad.

An early focus of this will be calls for the closure of Guantánamo Bay, which will have been in existence for seven years by January 2009. In the UK, human rights campaigners continue to seek the fair trial or release of UK resident Binyam Mohamed and two other individuals with close ties to the UK who are still held at Guantánamo.

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith recently announced that the Attorney General is set to investigate Binyam Mohamed’s case, including allegations that MI5 and US officials colluded in the illegal detention, transportation and torture of Mr Mohamed. Amnesty supporters are currently calling for the UK government to redouble its efforts to secure a fair trial or a safe early release and return to the UK for Mr Mohamed (www.amnesty.org.uk ).

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