Today we mark the 61st Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with International Human Rights Day. Earlier today, President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. In his acceptance speech he restated his belief in the U.S. as a standard bearer when it comes to human rights:
“That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.”
Yet the Obama Administration has been unwilling to do the hard work of holding those who authorized torture during the Bush administration accountable. We cannot be a beacon of human rights in the world when we act against our own laws and values. We have to work hard to restore America’s place in the world, and that includes being willing to confront the actions of those who authorized torture and investigate how those abuses of power occurred.
Our confidence in moving forward as a nation, both under the rule of law and in accord with our international obligations, requires a thorough consideration of what has happened to our legal and political institutions and why.
That is why in honor of International Human Rights Day and the importance of restoring America’s standing in the world as a beacon of human rights, we sent Attorney General Eric Holder a letter and petition, urging him to release the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) report on the authors of the “torture memos,” Jay Bybee, Steven Bradbury, and John Yoo, and authorize an investigation of those who ordered, designed, and authorized torture.