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Human Rights
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Human Rights–War on Terror News Update
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Remembering 25 Years Ago
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Human Rights in the Global Community

Although “human rights” are codified by international laws and protected by various global bodies and treaties, the human rights of individuals throughout the world are constantly under attack.  

The U.S.-led war on terror has brought many challenges to human rights into focus. Issues such as the torture of detainees in Iraq, the ongoing detention of hundreds of “suspected terrorists” at Guantánamo Bay, the practice of rendition, and the United States’ refusal to join the International Criminal Court have revealed a failure on the part of U.S. political leaders to operate in accord with international human rights standards, and often U.S. law as well. 

Yet we also see practices that affirm fundamental human rights. U.S. law provides recourse for those fighting impunity for foreign human rights abusers. For example, U.S. courts have recently ruled against men responsible for human rights abuses in El Salvador and Honduras in the 1980s. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a law enabling prosecution of foreign human rights abusers, and it struck down the practice of indefinite incommunicado detention, clearing the way for war-on-terror detainees to challenge their status.  

Government transparency, oversight and accountability—along with an effective justice system and true regard for international law—are crucial to preventing abuses of power and to protecting democracy and political freedom. To that end, there are efforts to declassify government documents that might shed light on past abuses and prevent future abuse, and vigilance for politicians in power, such as Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, whose histories suggest a disregard for human rights. 

You can learn more about the international codes that create the foundation for human rights in our Global Bodies & Treaties section, read in-depth reports of current human rights challenges and successes in our Current Issues section, and follow the latest news on how the war on terror is impacting human rights in our Human Rights–War on Terror News Update.