Maureen Byrnes / Rights Wire – 2006-07-04 00:24:17
WASHINGTON (June 2008) — Yesterday in the Guantanamo case the Supreme Court delivered a dramatic victory for the rule of law. In the broadest sense the Court reaffirmed that the Executive Branch is not exempt from basic guarantees of fair treatment, and detainees must be treated humanely.
Our Washington Director, Elisa Massimino, received a heartwarming message from an active duty US military officer congratulating us on our work. He said “It is a proud day for America in that we can assert that regardless of how bad we think somebody might be, he still has rights and our respect for the rule of law requires us to protect them even in times of war and even against the wishes of the President of the United States.” His words of thanks to us are thanks to all of you for your engagement and support.
In this issue I invite you to read more about how this decision will affect our ongoing work, and our other efforts to restore the rule of law around the world.
Maureen Byrnes is the Executive Director of Human Rights First.
High Court Restores Rule of Law
Yesterday’s 5 to 3 Supreme Court ruling was indeed a victory for the rule of law, but it also sets the stage for a series of activities and events that will require our close attention and action. And we will be calling on you for your help.
Legislation has already been introduced to authorize the continued use of the military commissions that the Supreme Court just struck down and we will need your help to resist such proposals.
A Senate hearing is scheduled for the next few weeks to consider the nomination of William Haynes to serve as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. William Haynes was the chief legal advisor to Secretary Rumsfeld when the policies on military commissions, security detainees and aggressive interrogation practices were developed.
We are urging Senators to give full attention to these issues, and may call on you to help reinforce this message with Senators from your state.
Finally, across a variety of government agencies there is an intense internal battle over what interrogation techniques may or may not be permissible under the law since the McCain Amendment was passed and we will be looking to you to help us hold the government accountable to the spirit and letter of that law.
G8 Meeting: A Chance for Change in Russia
Leaders of eight of the world’s foremost economic powers meet every year to discuss their policy and cooperation. The “G8” consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
This year, the G8 meets in Russia in mid-July. Human Rights First is using the international attention surrounding the G8 meeting to shine a light on the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia.
This week, we are releasing three reports documenting President Putin’s latest crackdowns on civil society organizations and the rise of hate crimes in Russia:
• Russia’s New Direction on the erosion of democracy in Russia
• Minorities Under Siege: Hate Crimes and Intolerance in the Russian Federation
• Minorities Under Siege: The Case of St. Petersburg
Several Human Rights First staff members will travel to Moscow in July for a series of meetings about Russia’s human rights situation.
Torture Is a Moral Issue
Much of the debate about torture in the United States has focused on the legal issues raised by the so-called “torture memos” – the series of leaked government documents that outlined a permissive view of coercive interrogation tactics.
On June 13, a group of US religious leaders added their moral and ethical voices to this debate, declaring in a New York Times ad, “Torture is a Moral Issue.”
The ad, signed by a range of religious figures – from President Jimmy Carter to the head of the National Evangelical Association – was sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It stated: “Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. … Let America abolish torture now – without exceptions.”
Human Rights First helped to form this religious coalition, provided substantive expertise to the organizers and helped attract signatories to the ad.
‘Can You Hear the Bullets?’
A Plan for Darfur
Our colleague asked us a chilling question when he called us by satellite phone from Darfur earlier this month: “Can you hear the bullets?”
Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam was just 1.5km from where the Janjaweed were shooting.
Despite the Darfur Peace Agreement in May, the violence continues. And Human Rights First is continuing its call for a UN Special Envoy to reenergize the peace process in Darfur. For more on the topic, read Human Rights First Director of Campaigns Jill Savitt’s opinion piece in the Miami Herald.
Even as we do this, we are concerned that the United States government – a leader on the Darfur issue – may lose its focus. In the past few weeks, two major figures on Darfur policy within the Bush Administration have announced their resignations: Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and the President’s special policy adviser, Michael Gerson.
The United States government needs to fill the gap created by their departures. Human Rights First is urging President Bush to appoint a senior-level official within the administration to oversee and coordinate US policy with respect to Darfur and to work with the international community to bring peace and stability to Sudan.