Again, the Obama administration’s decision to bring Ahmed Ghailani to trial in federal court was a positive break from its predecessor’s approach to the case, as was its decision not to seek the death penalty against him.17Bringing all those it accuses of involvement in the 11 September or other unlawful attacks to trials in federal courts would not only be a huge step towards respect for the rights of the detainees, it would be an important component of respect for the rights of the survivors and victims of those attacks.18 President Obama’s order to end the CIA’s use of long-term secret detention and “enhanced” interrogation techniques was also a welcome move to be built upon, and his as-yet unrealized declaration that the Guantánamo detentions would end held out the promise of change after years of unlawful detentions.19
Today, however, these positive moves have fallen under a shadow. This shadow can be dispersed by the USA living up to the universal human rights principles it says it is committed to and expects of others.
1 Remarks on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century. Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State, Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall, Washington DC, 14 December 2009, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/12/133544.htm
2 UN Convention against Torture, article 15; Human Rights Committee, General Comment no. 20 (1992), para. 12, finding the same obligation to arise under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. See USA: Judge refuses to dismiss charges against former secret detainee, says remedy for torture or other abuses must be sought elsewhere, 13 May 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR51/040/2010/en.
3 Under the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial”.