The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rights Group Launches Series of Blueprints for the Obama Administration

Guidelines for repairing America's global leadership and restoring the rule of law


A leading rights group has released a series of blueprints laying out detailed, multi-phased strategies for how the Obama administration should act to repair America's international leadership in human rights and restore the rule of law at home.

The seven blueprints, released to date, are part of a series of strategy papers developed to guide the new administration's decision making on a number of critical foreign and domestic policy related issues.

"It is time to look forward and turn the page on the policies of the current administration which have driven the United States away from its fundamental principles and damaged its reputation as a world leader in human rights," said Elisa Massimino, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First. "The restoration of our nation's commitment to humane treatment and return to the rule of law must be a top priority for the Obama administration."

The blueprint series draws on the organization's extensive body of work on a range of issues to address the human rights implications of many of the international and domestic policy challenges the new administration will face:

  • "How to Close Guantanamo," released last August, offers a step-by-step strategy that minimizes the risk to America's national security and ensures that detainee suspected of committing crimes against the United States are prosecuted in fair proceedings. It is based on Human Rights First's extensive work on Guantanamo -including over 25 trips to observe the proceedings since 2004 - and its study of the prosecution of terrorism cases in federal court, the findings of which can be read in the comprehensive report, "In Pursuit of Justice: Prosecuting Terrorism Cases in the Federal Courts."
  • "How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment," released in October, provides a detailed, multi-phased strategy to end torture and official cruelty and to invest instead in effective and humane intelligence gathering, including offering a single standard of humane treatment across all government agencies. It draws on the organization's extensive work on, and analysis of, U.S. detention and interrogation policies since September 11, 2001, as well as its close collaboration with more than 50 retired generals, admirals and civilian national security officials to advocate against torture and official cruelty.
  • "How to End Impunity for Private Security and other Contractors," released in November, offers a practical strategy for putting into place the key components of a comprehensive system of legal accountability for U.S. government contractors abroad, who now number more than 250,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Many of the findings derive from the group"s comprehensive report, "Private Security Contractors at War: Ending Contractor Impunity" which was released in January.
  • "How to Repair the U.S. Asylum System," released in December, puts forward a series of concrete recommendations to restore the U.S. commitment to providing refuge to those who flee persecution and arrive in this country in search of protection. New legal obstacles, restrictions on basic due process, and overly-broad counterterrorism measures have made it increasingly difficult for refugees to gain asylum protection.
  • "How to Promote Human Rights in Russia," released in December, is a country specific blueprint that advances a strategy for striking a viable balance between shared strategic concerns and the consistent promotion of human rights. The recommendations focus on two areas that are crucial to enabling Russians to promote the rule of law and secure human rights, supporting independent human rights defenders and increasing efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and violent hate crimes. The latter, a seriously escalating human rights problem, is extensively documented in Human Rights First's 2008 Hate Crime Survey.
  • "How to Stop Arms to Sudan," released in December, sets out a three-stage strategy for the incoming administration to lead an effort to ensure that arms-supplying states halt their sales, as well as to use its voice and vote at the U.N. Security Council to enforce and strengthen the U.N. imposed Darfur arms embargo. This blueprint follows a rare NGO briefing of the U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee on the Darfur arms embargo by Julia Fromholz, Interim Director of the Crimes Against Humanity program earlier this month.
  • "How to Confront the Iraqi Refugee Crisis," also released in December, puts forward a strategy for the incoming Obama administration to address the Iraqi refugee crisis as part of its pledge to withdraw from Iraq. The recommendations include the proposal that the President-elect place an Iraqi refugee coordinator in the White House, responsible for ensuring that appropriate policy toward Iraqi refugees is integrated into U.S. strategic and operational plans in Iraq, and for the U.S. government to set "refugee benchmarks" for the Iraqi government and for U.S. assistance to shift from the government to NGOs if those benchmarks are not met.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.