• Press Release

In Advance of the State of the Union Address, Amnesty International Calls On President Obama to Implement Bold Policies That Seize Historic Opportunities for Human Rights Progress

January 23, 2012

Organization urges decisive leadership to secure human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, end war-on-terror abuses, and sustain pressure for systemic human rights reform in Myanmar

Contact: Sharon Singh, [email protected], 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) — Suzanne Nossel, Amnesty International USA's executive director, issued the following statement in advance of President Barack Obama's scheduled third State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, January 24:

"Although economic issues may dominate President Obama's last State of the Union address of this term, he has the opportunity to solidify U.S. human rights leadership both at home and abroad. At the start of his presidency, the U.S. foreign policy agenda was marred by the war on terror and a retreat from fundamental human rights protections, including those against torture. Now the president can help ensure that his first term is remembered for restoring the place of U.S. values in the fight against terrorism, and for unwavering leadership to help ensure that the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa fulfill their promise of greater freedoms and respect for human rights.    

"Human rights have surged to the fore in the Middle East over the last year and must not return to the backseat of U.S. policy toward the region. In keeping with its commitment to principled leadership in the region, Amnesty International urges the United States to suspend sales of U.S. arms and equipment to governments, including Bahrain and Egypt, that use force to suppress peaceful protests and commit other human rights abuses. U.S. policy should support all citizens in the region. The president should redouble current U.S. efforts to support the rights and empowerment of women by demanding that they have an equal voice in political and public life.

"President Obama should make clear that further progress toward the historic restoration of full U.S. diplomatic ties with Myanmar is contingent upon continuous, tangible progress toward ending the government's human rights abuses. Specifically, AI calls for the release of all prisoners of conscience, an end to violence directed at ethnic groups and accountability for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity."

The president's speech comes just after the 10th anniversary of the first transfer of war-on-terror detainees to Guantánamo. Amnesty International will soon deliver more than 160,000 signatures to the Obama administration urging the president to make good on his promise to close the prison through measures that respect international human rights standards.

"More than three years since that promise was made, 171 detainees remain there, other terrorism suspects are subject to trials by unlawful military commissions, and the newly enacted National Defense Authorization Act has codified indefinite military detention without trial. President Obama must reassert his commitment to ensuring that the abuses justified in the name of the war on terror do not become permanent features of U.S. law and policy."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.

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