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LONDON – American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero and Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti of the U.K. met with officials at the British Foreign Office on Monday and at 10 Downing Street today to promote the shared goals of restoring the rule of law to the U.S. after eight years of abuse and reestablishing the unique Anglo-American alliance based on a respect for civil liberties and human rights. The two leading transatlantic civil liberties groups also emphasized the importance of expressing international support for the Obama administration's impressive first steps in this direction and encouraging the new president to reject any form of indefinite detention or extraordinary rendition as new policies are developed.
"As a result of the Bush administration's unlawful national security policies, the public image of the United States has been greatly diminished in the global community," said Romero. "The U.S. and the U.K. have an historically special relationship and now is a perfect time for the two countries to work together to ensure that the U.S. takes full and complete measures to restore the liberties that have been eroded over the last eight years."
At the meetings, the groups and officials discussed the recent executive orders issued by President Obama to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp within a year and to reverse many of the Bush administration's most egregious detention and torture policies. While these orders represent a major step forward, they contain certain ambiguities regarding the prosecution of Guantánamo detainees and the international crime of extraordinary rendition.
"It will be enormously powerful for the British government to make clear that, while embracing President Obama's commitment to shutting down the notorious Guantánamo prison camp and military commissions, the restoration of the rule of law will only be truly complete when the Obama administration unequivocally rejects the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects. That means full and fair criminal trials in U.S. courts – or repatriation or resettlement in home or third countries. Any further detention of these detainees without trial, even in a prison on U.S. soil, would perpetuate the Bush administration's failed policies, and would send a dangerous message to the world about America's commitment to the rule of law," said Romero.
The groups also discussed the importance of speaking with a unified voice to completely eradicate the abhorrent practice of extraordinary rendition, under which individuals are kidnapped and secretly transported to foreign countries known for torturing prisoners. It is widely known that innocent people have been victims of this program and that several allied nations have participated in making it possible.
"In order to ensure that the abuses of the last eight years are not repeated, it is necessary that they not only be repudiated, but brought to light. Because the CIA's rendition program could not have operated without the assistance of key allies, a full investigation of the program must be a worldwide undertaking. America's allies must make abundantly clear that their full participation in U.S.-led anti-terrorism efforts will be contingent on a firm U.S. commitment not to transfer detainees to nations that the U.S. itself has condemned as torturers," added Romero.