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March 07, 2014

U.S. Urged to Comply with International Law

New York City – Today’s New York Times reports that the United States government is likely to continue to insist that the international human rights law embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the United States, does not apply to U.S. actions beyond our national borders. Human Rights First expresses disappointment with the reported decision and notes it will have negative consequences not just for human rights and U.S. global standing, but also for the effectiveness of our counter-terrorism cooperation. We call on the Administration to review its options, with  broad consideration for the effects on counter-terrorism and US global leadership, before it makes a final decision.

Human Rights First’s Michael Quigley, a career military intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy with combat tours in Iraq and deployments with U.S. Special Operations Command, stressed the negative consequences for our security, noting, “If the populations most plagued by terrorism don’t believe we hold ourselves to the highest international standards, they have little incentive to view us as an honest and credible partner. This choice has real consequences for the security of Americans, particularly our service members overseas.”

Human Rights First notes that the Obama Administration has made important changes to U.S. policy by banning the use of torture abroad, slowly moving towards ending indefinite detention, indicating an interest in ending the ‘war’ on terror and increasing emphasis on diplomacy and support for our allies in fighting terrorism around the world. But the organization warns that progress is undermined if the administration fails to acknowledge that international law grants all people certain minimum rights – not to be tortured or arbitrarily detained or killed, including by the U.S. government.

Quigley concludes, “For the Obama Administration’s commitments to be taken seriously and to meaningfully assist U.S. counterterrorism efforts, it must be willing to say that its own actions are constrained by international human rights law as the vast majority of our allies and independent authorities, such as the International Committee for the Red Cross, interpret it.  Failure to do so will continue to undermine global faith in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law and U.S. standing in the world, and thereby continue to endanger U.S. national security.”

For more information or to speak with Quigley, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.