By Jamil Dakwar, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Program & Steering Committee Member of the Campaign for a New Domestic Human Rights Agenda
Seven months ago, the United States issued a list of human rights commitments and pledges in support of U.S. candidacy for membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council. The decision to join the Human Rights Council was the right thing to do. It was as an important step in breaking with the Bush administration's unilateral and disastrous policies on human rights. While we welcomed this move, we noted that the Obama administration had "missed an opportunity to detail exactly how it will reaffirm its commitment to ending human rights violations at home beyond vague rhetoric." We warned the Obama administration to "move beyond ambiguous commitments which are similar to the ones heard from the Bush administration over the past eight years."
There is no question that this administration is currently facing multiple and daunting challenges, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the safe closing of Guantánamo, the economic crisis and rising unemployment, health care, energy reform and much more. However, nearly a year after Obama's inauguration, the administration has yet to announce any major domestic human rights initiative, outline a detailed plan to honor and expand our existing human rights commitments and translate them into domestic policy, or incorporate them into the daily working of the U.S. government.