Welcome letter from 2014 Annual Report
As we assess the state of our world, it is easy to despair. The brutality of ISIS, the war in Syria, Russia’s continued aggression—the headlines forecast a perfect storm of instability. And here at home, our union is far from perfect. Whole communities feel that law enforcement and the justice system have failed them. And we find ourselves challenged to respond humanely to children coming across our southern border in search of a safe haven from violence. Refugees are a barometer of distress, and there are more in the world today than at any other time since World War II.
These challenges can seem overwhelming, even incomprehensible. Yet they didn’t arise from nowhere. They are the predictable result of human rights violations left to fester.
And just as rights violations lead to crisis, respect for human rights is the pathway forward. Forged out of the ashes of World War II and drafted with U.S. leadership, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is grounded in the belief that respect for human dignity is essential for peace and security. At a time when the world seems to be coming apart, we should remember the wisdom of those who sought, after unspeakable horror, to put it back together.
At Human Rights First, our mission is to challenge the United States to live up to these ideals. When the United States respects human rights at home, it can better advance them abroad. When it falls short, authoritarians and extremists fill the void. Recently, nothing has harmed U.S. credibility more than its fateful decision to embrace torture after 9/11.
Ten years ago, we began to build a coalition of retired generals and admirals who believe that torture undermines America’s security. Together we helped secure President Obama’s 2009 executive order banning torture. It was a major victory, and the first step in a long journey back from the “dark side.”
Next, we set out to get the findings of a classified Senate report on the CIA’s torture program released, confident it would be critical in building a durable national consensus against torture. We joined forces with our military and intelligence allies, employed our policy expertise and communication savvy and, against long odds, succeeded in bringing the report to light.
In December, the report’s 500-page executive summary, which detailed dark truths about CIA abuse, was released. Now we’re pushing for a new law to strengthen the ban on torture.
This was just one of our many accomplishments in 2014. Whether we’re defending the rights of refugees or pressing to close Guantanamo or combating antisemitism, we are challenging our country to live up to its ideals. When it does, it can change the world.
Thank you for joining us in this important work.
President and CEO, Human Rights First
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Human Rights First is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3), international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. To maintain our independence, we accept no government funding.
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