For Immediate Release: May 19, 2011
Washington, D.C. — During today’s speech on foreign policy in the Middle East, President Obama took an impressive first step, after the momentous events of the past few months – the popular uprisings throughout the Middle East and the killing of Osama bin Laden – toward articulating a new framework for U.S. policy grounded in sustained U.S. support for the promotion of human rights and democracy. Human Rights First commends President Obama for seizing the moment to demonstrate U.S. leadership on human rights at this critical point in time.
Earlier this week, Human Rights First President and CEO, Elisa Massimino, addressed a letter to the President urging him to use today’s speech to lay out a foreign policy that defends U.S. vital interests within a strategic framework of consistently advancing universal principles of human rights and support for representative governments that serve their people. The letter called for the Administration to adhere consistently to these principles in relationships between the United States and all nations of the Muslim world. Said Massimino: “The President’s speech set the right priorities. The challenge now is to implement these policies and bring this bold vision to life.”
Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks praised President Obama’s support for Egyptian democracy. “A foreign aid package that strengthens the Egyptian economy and produces jobs will ultimately contribute to an environment that will protect human rights,” said Hicks. “The current political unrest in this region is attributable in part to a lack of opportunities for individuals. Economic support for democratic transition in Egypt serves U.S. interests.”
Hicks added, “If the policy articulated today by President Obama is implemented and carried forward over time, the United States’ credibility as a partner to people in the Middle East striving to build societies grounded in the rule of law and respect for human dignity will be greatly strengthened.”
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley welcomed the specific references to Bahrain in the President’s speech. “Having just returned from Bahrain, home of the United States’ Fifth Fleet, I can tell you that the situation for human rights defenders there is dire. The President’s remarks on the attacks on Shia mosques were encouragingly specific – the United States needs to continue to be just as specific in criticizing the Bahraini government on other human rights violations, including mass detentions and torture.”