The President & Human Rights

President Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and just won his second term as president. As just about everything else in his record, his presidency, and his personal life has been and will be evaluated, his efforts to promote human rights should be evaluated as well. President Obama has made many campaign promises regarding human rights, and has done some things outside of those promises that have also impacted human rights. Overall, he’s done well, but could do more. As best we can, here’s our evaluation of President Barack Obama and what he’s done (and what he hasn’t done) for human rights:

Where He’s Succeeded

  • 2013 State of the Union – The president did a great job addressing human rights issues, primarily women’s rights and VAWA, during the 2013 State of the Union address. Although he didn’t make too many promises regarding human rights, it was refreshing to see the topic to have some spotlight in the address.
  • Arms Trade Treaty – We are glad that Obama was instrumental in getting this through and didn’t listen to the NRA. Such a treaty was badly needed to regulate the flow of arms across the world, especially into the hands of human rights abusers and governments that do not protect human rights.
  • Trip to Southeast Asia – Obama’s trip at the end of 2012 to Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand did include discussion and pressure to improve the human rights conditions in those countries. He praised Aung San Suu Kyi while being careful not to endorse the Burmese government.

Where He Needs Work

  • Closing Guantanamo – Need more be said? He still hasn’t done this despite the egregious human rights violations taking place.
  • The National Defense Authorization Act – Related to Guantanamo, the NDAA (signed by Obama) allows the US military to capture American citizens and foreigners abroad or inside the country and detain them without any trial, all in the name of war on Terror. Some are worried that this act would also give future presidents the power to detain people for life without any trial or charge.
  • Immigration Reform – Not much has happened on this front, and despite numerous promises from this administration, Barack Obama has deported 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in his first term, 1.5 times faster than President George W. Bush.

Proclamation for Human Rights

On Human Rights Day in 2012, the president proclaimed the following words below. We must continue to work and to hold each other accountable, including Barack Obama, to what we are doing to uphold human rights and to ensure that promise of freedom and fairness.

The United States was built on the promise that freedom and fairness are not endowed only to some — they are the birthright of all. Ordinary Americans have fought to fully realize that vision for more than two centuries, courageously forging a democracy that empowers each of us equally and affords every citizen due process under the law. Just as we have cultivated these rights here at home, so have we worked to promote them abroad. Societies across the globe are reaching toward a future where leaders are fairly and duly elected; where everyone can get an education and make a good living; where women and girls are free from violence, as well as free to pursue the same opportunities as men and boys; and where the voice of the people rings clear and true. As they do, the United States stands with them, ready to uphold the basic decency and human rights that underlie everything we have achieved and all our progress yet to come.

Related Links:

Indefinite Detentions, Military Commissions, and Guantanamo

Human Rights 101: What You Need to Know

Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

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8 thoughts on “The President & Human Rights

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  7. All Missourians would call their congressional representatives and demand NO WAR IN SYRIA.
    Our president, Mr. Obama will be judged on human rights not only by what he says, but what he does not say on human rights and war politics.
    Oil, the politics thereof, the relationships of human rights therewith, would clearly have much to do with human rights.
    Our president says nothing of oil, in his outcry for human rights, red lines, and human decency.
    He has not much, if anything, to offer to make peace, only offering bombs, missile strikes, death, destruction, confusion, and raft.
    Russia, no model of human rights advocacy and peace, seems to offer more, allowing Assad’s government the out of delivering chemical weaponry to them, as a branch to help keep peace.

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