Fighting for the Change that Never Happened

Two big things happened in the last week, and they’re both going to require our attention for the next four years and beyond: the national election repudiated religious conservatives and handed Obama a second term, and Hurricane Sandy destroyed many thousands of lives.

Our allies in New Orleans and Haiti taught us the aftermath of a disaster like Sandy will last a long, long time and have far-reaching impact on things like public housing, privatization of government, and civil and human rights. We need to look ahead to hold the government accountable to a people’s recovery that meets people’s needs and is driven by a people’s agenda guided by the principles of human rights.

Meanwhile, Obama’s re-election means we need to hold the president accountable for the change we want to see. Here are the changes we will keep fighting for in Obama’s second term:

* Close Guantanamo, and end torture through indefinite detention. Repatriate or resettle the men the government does not intend to prosecute, and provide fair trials for the rest

* End the use of solitary confinement in prisons across the country

* End unlawful “targeted killings” and the expansion of the Orwellian “disposition matrix.” Acknowledge, investigate and provide reparations for unlawful civilian killings

* End the war in Afghanistan and pull all private military contractors out of Iraq and Afghanistan

* Abandon the endless global war paradigm as the basis for abusive national security policies and end the use of war force outside of war zones

* Investigate and prosecute former high-level U.S. officials who bear responsibility for torture and war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the “black sites”

* Provide medical treatment and compensation to people subjected to torture in U.S.-run detention facilities, including in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Guantánamo, and provide war reparations to communities in Iraq and Afghanistan for harms done to the people and the environment

* End the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists like Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning for protected First Amendment activity

* Increase transparency, sunshine and freedom of information in federal law enforcement and prisons and end overclassification of unlawful or embarrassing government conduct

* Stop the criminalization of dissent: end the stifling of activist expression under the anti-free-speech National Defense Authorization Act and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and end overbroad prosecutions for terrorism under material support laws

* Stop the criminalization and profiling of communities based on race and religion: end the devastating Secure Communities program that destroys families and spreads fear in immigrant neighborhoods

* End warrantless surveillance and stop the indiscriminate targeting and surveillance of Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities under the guise of national security

* Support human rights internationally: stop funding and training police and militaries abroad implicated in human rights abuses in places like Honduras

* Center women’s equality in all policy and legislative initiatives concerning their bodily autonomy and right to health

We know that we cannot rely on politicians or even the courts: only people can make meaningful change. This is a critical time for all of us to act to change the course of history and build a unified vision for a society guided by human rights. Hope only gets you so far.

Let’s get to work.

Vincent Warren is Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights.


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