Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Preliminary Findings on Visit to United States by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism

On Friday, May 25, 2007, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, noted his preliminary findings following a visit to the United States. Here's a short excerpt:

In a world community which has adopted global measures to counter terrorism, the United States is a leader. This position carries with it a special responsibility also to take leadership in the protection of human rights while countering terrorism. The example of the United States will have its followers, in good and in bad. The Special Rapporteur has a deep respect for the long traditions in the United States of respect for individual rights, the rule of law, and a strong level of judicial protection. Despite the existence of a tradition in the United States of respect for the rule of law, and the presence of self-correcting mechanisms under the United States Constitution, it is most regretful that a number of important mechanisms for the protection of rights have been removed or obfuscated under law and practice since the events of 11 September, including under the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and under Executive Orders and classified programs.

The Special Rapporteur thus sees his visit as one step in the process of restoring the role of the United States as a positive example for respecting human rights, including in the context of the fight against terrorism. He dismisses the perception that the United States has become an enemy of human rights. It is a country which still has a great deal to be proud of.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, responded:

[W]e are doing this [detaining persons at Guantanamo and using military commissions] under US laws and procedures and legitimate decision making authorities that exist in the United States. We are a rule of law country and our decisions are based on rule of law.