Ten years ago, Americans responded to the 9/11 attacks by pulling together in solidarity to help their neighbors. Unfortunately, our government failed to live up to the inspiring example of ordinary Americans, and instead pursued policies that treated our most cherished values—respect for human dignity and the rule of law—as liabilities, instead of assets, in the struggle against terrorism. Whether those changes represent an aberration, or a permanent shift—a “new normal,” in Dick Cheney’s famous phrase—still hangs in the balance.
Not long after 9/11, we launched an effort to undo these dangerous policies and challenge the misguided notion that we need to violate rights to protect our country. On the contrary, the most effective national security policies are those that protect human rights. We’ve made progress. Working with a distinguished group of retired generals and admirals, we built a powerful coalition against torture, and our efforts led to President Obama’s executive order upholding the Geneva Conventions, closing CIA secret prisons, and ending practices like waterboarding.
But we have a long way to go. This fall Congress will consider bills that would keep Gitmo open indefinitely and tie the hands of law enforcement by requiring that terrorism suspects be turned over to the military. It’s a bad idea–the Pentagon doesn’t like it, and it would block one of the most effective tools we have to combat terrorism. As our board member, retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, has said, “We don’t ask DoJ to fight our wars, and we shouldn’t ask the Pentagon to try our criminals.” Please join us in supporting smart and just counterterrorism policies, so that on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we can say that America’s fear-fueled trip to “the dark side” was brief, and is behind us.
Watch New Yorkers and Washington, DC residents reflect on what we’ve learned since 9/11.
President and CEO
Human Rights First
The former Vice President’s memoir presents a dilemma for booksellers: should it reside in the “Fiction” section, or does “True Crime” more accurately describe it?
In any case, it’s clear that the book contains a plethora of half-truths and untruths, and on no issue is Cheney more slippery than torture. He calls water-boarding and other torture techniques “rough interrogation.” (We used to prosecute them as war crimes.) He claims that the Bush-Cheney torture program worked. (It didn’t.) And he says torture turned 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed into a “fount of information.” (Wrong again.)
Cheney offers no evidence that torture keeps the country safe, because none exists. On the contrary, it has undermined U.S. national security. To counter Cheney’s nonsense and tell the truth about torture, we’ve produced a video featuring Gen. Charles Krulak, former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Read General Hoar and General Krulak respond to the Cheney memoir in Politico.
Nearly four decades ago, Kansas City, Missouri awarded its Freedom Medal to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. But now Bahrain’s PR machine is citing this award as evidence of the King’s international standing. We’re asking Kansas City to take it back.
In March, the King’s regime launched a violent crackdown on democratic protestors. As we’ve documented in two reports, it has rounded up and tortured democracy activists and brutalized doctors and nurses for treating injured protestors. At least four people have died in custody.
By revoking the award, Kansas City would disassociate itself from the regime’s violence and deny Bahraini authorities the ability to use it for PR purposes. Please join us in asking Kansas City Mayor Sylvester James to take the award back.
How desperate would a gay refugee have to be to seek safe haven in Uganda? That was a question recently posed to HRF’s Annie Sovik by a Ugandan human rights activist. Uganda—home of the “Kill the Gays” legislation—is infamously hostile to gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities. That they would go there, of all places, underscores the dismal situation for LGBTI people across East Africa.
Over the last two years, we’ve devoted special attention to helping refugees who face persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. As part of this effort, Sovik traveled to Uganda and Kenya to gather information. She heard heartrending accounts of LGBTI refugees who are doubly traumatized—first in their home countries, and again in the places where they’ve sought refuge. Many don’t seek help for fear of being outed. And prejudice within refugee communities makes it difficult to tap into the social networks that could provide support.
We are pressing the United States to offer expedited resettlement to LBTI refugees facing imminent harm. And we’re working with the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) to ensure that it—and its civil society partners—provide refugees “safe shelter,” train staff to deal with the cultural barriers the prevent refugees from seeking assistance, and reach out to ensure that vulnerable refugees know about available services and can access them in confidence.
In January of this year, Salman Taseer, governor of the province of Pujab, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for speaking out against Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws. Now Taseer’s 27-year old son Shabaz has been abducted at gunpoint. No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
We’ve been working closely with Shehrbano Taseer, Shahbaz’s sister, to oppose the misuse of blasphemy laws which violate the right to free expression and have triggered persecution and violence. At our annual Human Rights Dinner in October, we will honor Shehrbano’s commitment to her father’s cause in the face of threats to her own safety.
To learn more about the dangerous consequences of blasphemy laws, read our report: Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The Consequences of Criminalizing “Defamation of Religions.”
August 30, 2011
WikiLeaks publishes cables exposing confidential sources
August 26, 2011
Pakistan needs courage – and help – to fight intolerance
August 14, 2011
The Hard Cell: Detentions in Afghanistan
August 13, 2011
Could torture make a comeback?
August 12, 2011
US to delay Afghan prison handover