The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666;

Obama Affirms Commitment to Human Rights in Speech Before the United Nations

Administration Should Take Concrete Action to Prioritize Human Rights at Home and Abroad


Pledging that "America will always stand with those who stand up for
their dignity and their rights," President Obama indicated that the
U.S. intends to prioritize human rights in both domestic and foreign
policy in his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly.
The American Civil Liberties Union calls on the president to follow
through on his commitments, and reverse the course set by the previous
administration of disengagement in human rights efforts.

"It is encouraging to hear President
Obama acknowledge that ensuring basic human rights is essential to a
peaceful world. For eight years under President Bush, the U.S.
undermined international human rights laws and refused to ratify
treaties that have been embraced by the overwhelming majority of
nations," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "In
his first speech before the General Assembly, President Obama stated
that 'America will live its values, and we will lead by example.' We
hope that the president's first steps to achieving this will be to
abandon the Guantanamo military commissions and renounce the practice
of holding detainees indefinitely without charge or trial."

Since his inauguration, President
Obama has helped restore U.S. standing on human rights by joining the
U.N. Human Rights Council, signing the Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and prioritizing the ratification of
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW). While welcoming these steps, the ACLU called for
additional concrete measures that will reassert U.S. leadership on
human rights, including the implementation and enforcement of ratified
treaties and the resurrection of the Interagency Working Group on Human
Rights - disbanded during the Bush administration - to coordinate and
promote human rights within domestic policy.

"The president's speech to the U.N.
made clear his commitment to advancing human rights at home and
abroad," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program.
"The Obama administration has already taken steps to break with the
Bush administration's disastrous human rights policies but there is
still much more to do, including honoring and expanding U.S. human
rights commitments and fully incorporating them into domestic policy.
As the president said today, U.S. credibility abroad will be judged by
deeds, not by words, and we look forward to his administration taking
concrete actions to translate these commitments to a robust human
rights policy."

"President Obama has demonstrated
that he is committed to universal human rights, including equal
opportunity for women and girls to fulfill their own potential," said
Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project. "We hope
that his historic speech today before the General Assembly will be
followed by real action on the part of the U.S. in finally ratifying
CEDAW and other international human rights treaties, and making human
rights a key component of both U.S. domestic and foreign policy."

The U.S. signed the CRPD last July,
but the treaty still has to be ratified by the Senate. The U.S. has
also signed but has yet to ratify CEDAW and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child (CRC), two major human rights treaties that have
significantly contributed to the protection and promotion of the rights
of women and children worldwide. The U.S. is the only country other
than Somalia that has not ratified the CRC, and is one of only seven
countries - together with Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan and Tonga
- that has failed to ratify CEDAW.

For more information on ACLU human rights work, please visit:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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