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January 21, 2015

The State of the Union: 8 human rights priorities

This is an excerpt from The Hill.

With the midterms behind him, President Obama can spend his final two years in office devoting his full attention to priorities that will define his legacy. While many issues are competing for the administration’s attention, if the president wants to cement his legacy as a human rights champion, here are eight areas he should touch on in tonight’s State of the Union address and make priorities in the coming two years.

  1. Closing Guantanamo

    One of Obama’s first actions as president was to sign an executive order mandating the closure of Guantanamo in a year—six years later, it’s still open. If the president doesn’t fulfill his promise by the end of his term, there’s no telling whether the prison will ever actually close.

    The administration has picked up the pace on detainee transfers recently, but more needs to be done. Obama should build on the current momentum and use his State of the Union address to outline his plan for closing the facility once and for all.

  2. Cementing Torture Prohibitions

    Ending torture and cruel treatment was once one of Obama’s signature issues; he e took decisive early action to end abusive CIA practices. But his recent lackluster support for the Senate intelligence committee’s report on torture has called his legacy on this important issue into question. Obama should support Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) soon-to-be introduced legislation and implement the executive actions she recommends that would increase oversight of the CIA and help prevent a return to torture.

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