HRF Details for Senate Judiciary Committee Specific Steps to Return to the Rule of Law
NEW YORK, New York - Human Rights First Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
Elisa Massimino today outlined concrete steps the United States must
take in order to realize a return to the rule of law in two key areas:
(1) enforcing legal prohibitions on torture and other cruel and inhuman
treatment of prisoners; and (2) abandoning the failed experiment at
Guantánamo in favor of the proven effectiveness of our federal criminal
courts. These steps were presented in testimony delivered by Massimino
to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property
Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a hearing devoted to
"Restoring the Rule of Law."
Noting that "U.S. detention and interrogation policy over the past
seven years has been marked by ongoing violations of fundamental humane
treatment standards rationalized by a series of secret legal opinions
that have stretch the law beyond recognition," Massimino called for a
"return to a detention policy that is firmly rooted in the rule of
law-not in loophole lawyering[,]" and urged a renewed commitment to
humane treatment standards through a series of actions detailed in her
testimony. Read the full testimony here.
Massimino also called for the establishment of a bi-partisan
commission, with subpoena power, to review the treatment of detainees
held since September 11, including in the United States, Iraq,
Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, and secret prisons overseas.
In addition, Massimino's testimony addressed the many failures of
government policy at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court has rejected the
government's detention, interrogation and trial policies at Guantánamo
each time it has examined them. In more than six years only one
military commission trial has been conducted, and not even one of the
suspects implicated in the September 11 attacks has been tried.
According to Massimino, "Guantánamo has become a symbol of
injustice, of expediency over fundamental fairness, and of this
country's willingness to set aside its core values and beliefs." She
pointed out there is now widespread agreement that it should be closed.
Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of Defense Gates, and President Bush
have all said they would like to close Guantánamo. Senators McCain and
Obama have each vowed to close the facility as president.
Massimino noted that closing Guantánamo will require decisive action and policy changes. These actions also are laid out in her testimony, as well as in How to Close Guantanamo: A Blueprint for the Next Administration, issued last month by Human Rights First.
According to Massimino, the new Administration and Congress will
have a limited "window of opportunity to signal to the American people
and to the world that the policies of the last seven years were an
aberration and that the United States is serious about restoring the
rule of law"-
In the course of my work I often meet with human rights colleagues
from around the world, many of them operating in extremely dangerous
situations. When I ask how we can support them as they struggle to
advance human rights and democratic values in their own societies,
invariably their answer is: "get your own house in order. We need the
United States to be in a position to provide strong leadership on human
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