USA: Still failing human rights in the name of global

January 20, 2010

USA: Still failing human rights in the name of global

As we approach President Obama’s original deadline for his administration to resolve the Guantánamo detentions and close the prison, it is worth recalling the words of his executive order of 22 January 2009:


“In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice”.35


A year later, the absence in the executive order of an express commitment to comply with international human rights law in ending the detentions has come home to roost. The issue has become mired in a domestic US political context in which over the short-term it seem less costly to invoke concepts such as “national security” or “global war” to justify deep departures from the USA’s human rights commitments, than to confront and remedy the human rights violations of the past and present. So long as human rights remains largely missing from the analysis brought to bear by the administration, Congress, and the courts, an effective and permanent solution to the real challenges the USA faces will seem elusive.


The Guantánamo detentions were created out of a government’s failure to respect human rights principles. The detentions can and must be ended within a framework of respect for universal human rights.



1 See USA: Detainees continue to bear costs of delay and lack of remedy: Minimal judicial review for Guantánamo detainees 10 months after Boumediene, April 2009,

2 On the day of the ruling, for example, DC District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the parties in the habeas corpus case of Guantánamo detainee Suleiman Awadh bin Agil al-Nadhi to file supplemental briefing on the impact of the Court of Appeals ruling on the al-Nadhi case, in which a merits hearing had been held on 4 and 5 January 2010.