• Press Release

United States: President Obama Should Address Urgent Human Rights Situations in His State of the Union Address

March 27, 2011


Monday, January 25, 2010

President Obama Should Address Urgent Human Rights Situations in His State of the Union Address


As the nation anticipates President Obama’s first State of the Union address on Wednesday, January 27, Amnesty International (AI) raised critical unresolved human rights issues, requesting the administration's urgent attention. For further comment or information on these and other human rights priorities, please contact the AIUSA Media Relations office or visit www.amnestyusa.org. The following can be attributed to Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA):

Amnesty International and its 2.2 million supporters worldwide hope to hear President Obama’s plan to close the prison at Guantanamo – more than one year after his pledge to do so. The organization urges him to support accountability for the torture and abuse of men detained in the war on terror and to end indefinite detention.

As the debate around health care reform continues, the organization urges the president to address the ongoing and pervasive disparities in access to health care in the United States that exist along racial, ethnic and economic lines – especially for women – by ensuring premium parity for men and women. These disparities also manifest themselves in disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality throughout the United States. AI urges the president to instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to take coordinated, systematic and robust action to combat this critical problem. Vigorous enforcement of federal nondiscrimination laws, coupled with comprehensive data collection, is crucial to identifying and reducing the nation’s maternal mortality crisis.

AI also urges the president to call on the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which provides an international standard for protecting and promoting women's human rights and is the strongest and most relevant international treaty to advocate for women's human rights. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in 2002 to recommend ratification of CEDAW, but the treaty has never come before the full Senate for a vote. Although 185 countries have ratified the treaty, the United States is the only country in the Western Hemisphere and the only industrialized democracy that has not done so. Events around the world – in Afghanistan, Guinea, Iran, Haiti and even here at home — affirm the need for full restoration of women's rights.

AI urges the administration to bring real reform to the broken immigration detention system by taking three steps. First, providing every individual with access to a meaningful hearing on whether detention is warranted. If the government cannot demonstrate that the person poses either a flight risk or a danger to the community, then he should be released from detention. Moreover, all detained individuals should be considered for alternatives to detention before being deprived of their liberty. Finally, standards for the humane and fair treatment of immigrants in detention should be legally enforceable with clear oversight and accountability for transgressions.

In the coming months AI urges the administration to provide continued leadership throughout the Western Hemisphere as the people of Haiti, facing profound obstacles to the realization of their human rights, begin to rebuild their lives in dignity. AI commends the administration for extending Temporary Protected Status to Haitians already in the United States, encourages the United States to incorporate the U.N. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in all efforts to assist those in Haiti, and suspend the Haitian interdiction at sea policy because it is not an effective method for identifying individuals at risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries who campaign for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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