CARTER

The Covington News - - Lo­cal news -

earned him wide dis­par­age­ment from the right, Carter hailed the end of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, call­ing it “the most dis­as­trous hu­man rights ad­min­is­tra­tion that the United States has ever seen.”

Carter’s re­marks were part of the Cen­ter for Civil & Hu­man Rights week­long cel­e­bra­tion of the 60th an­niver­sary of the United Na­tions’ Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights.

Carter said one of the most dis­turb­ing things to watch dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion was the large pub­lic sup­port shown to­wards some of the prac­tices pur­sued in Amer­ica’s War on Ter­ror, such as the sus­pen­sion of habeas cor­pus for sus­pected ter­ror­ists held at Guan­tanamo Bay and the con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique of wa­ter board­ing.

“It hap­pened on our watch,” Carter told the au­di­ence, made up largely of hu­man rights ac­tivists from across the world and the coun­try. “We were un­able to mo­bi­lize enough peo­ple to turn it around. We over­es­ti­mated our strength.”

Carter said hu­man rights pro­po­nents should never again take for granted Amer­i­can sup­port and must ag­gres­sively pur­sue a di­a­logue with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and with the Amer­i­can peo­ple “so they un­der­stand the dam­ages done and im­pli­ca­tions to peo­ple in the rest of the world” of the last eight years of lax hu­man rights stan­dards.

Di­rec­tor of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional USA Larry Cox said the hu­man rights com­mu­nity should also look fur­ther back than the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­ci­sions made in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion that con­tra­vened hu­man rights.

“Let it be known that the United States does not con­sider it­self sep­a­rate,” said Cox who called for a Con­gres­sional com­mis­sion to be formed with sub­poena power to in­ves­ti­gate hu­man rights abuses and the abil­ity to make rec­om­men­da­tions to Congress. “I think it will take the Amer­i­can peo­ple say­ing ‘we want to know what was done in our name.’”

Karen Ryan, di­rec­tor of the Carter Cen­ter’s Hu­man Rights Pro­gram, said that the pho­tographs from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq de­pict­ing pris­on­ers be­ing abused by their Amer­i­can guards were “just the tip of the ice­berg” of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions per­pet­u­ated by the United States in re­cent years.

“There is dam­age and it’s not as sim­ple as is­su­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der,” Ryan said of the work fac­ing the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion in re­pair­ing the United States’ for­eign im­age.

Pan­elist Saad Ibrahim, an Egyp­tian so­ci­ol­o­gist who was jailed for three years by Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak for call­ing for free elec­tions, warned the au­di­ence not to grow com­pla­cent in tak­ing Amer­ica’s her­itage of pro­tect­ing hu­man rights for granted.

“It pained me that Amer­ica came down the moun­tain to the great abyss with tor­ture and the tales of Abu Ghraib and the re­fusal to sign [the in­ter­na­tional ac­cord for the rights of chil­dren],” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim said the United States should be pre­pared to ac­cept the re­sults of all bur­geon­ing de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion move­ments fos­tered re­cently in the Mid­dle East with the sup­port of Pres­i­dent Bush, even if the elec­tions bring more Is­lamists to power as they have in the Pales­tinian Ter­ri­to­ries and in Le­banon.

“When you en­cour­age democ­racy, when you in­sti­tute democ­racy, you should be will­ing to ac­cept the out­come, even if you don’t like it,” he said.

Sima Sa­mar, chair­per­son of the Afghanistan In­de­pen­dent Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, said the United States needs to bring ac­count­abil­ity back to its gov­ern­ment to send a mes­sage to op­pres­sive gov­ern­ments around the world that their own hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions are no longer ac­cept­able.

“The cul­ture of im­punity has to stop all over the world,” Sa­mar said.

The pan­elists all agreed that hu­man rights pro­po­nents should not sit back and as­sume that the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion would pur­sue all of the rec­om­mended changes in U.S. hu­man rights pol­icy.

“If we just rely on this good will and in­ten­tions [from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion], we will be dis­ap­pointed. We have to be vig­i­lant,” Ibrahim said.

Added Carter, “I don’t have any doubt that Barack Obama’s mo­ti­va­tions aren’t com­pat­i­ble with what we’ve said tonight but we can’t take him for granted. We need to give him our sup­port.”

Carter said he would like to see Pres­i­dent-elect Obama ap­point some­one to the State Depart­ment known as the Hu­man Rights Rep­re­sen­ta­tive who would have di­rect ac­cess to the pres­i­dent to make rec­om­men­da­tions on hu­man rights pol­icy.

He also said Pres­i­dent-elect Obama should “sup­port the United Na­tions for a change.”

Added Ryan, “When the most pow­er­ful na­tion in the world re­claims its man­tle of lead­er­ship, we can im­prove peace­keep­ing at the United Na­tions.”

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