Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners are petitioning their fellow laureate Barack Obama to disclose all information about and end the use of torture by the U.S. government. The petition comes at a crucial time when Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee are in negotiations with the CIA over how much of the 2012 torture report will be declassified.
When the Norwegian Nobel committee gave Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, nine months after becoming president, they likely had big hopes for Obama. Five years later, a number of lingering issues remain to complicate the legacy of a Nobel Prize Winning president.
Even Barack Obama's efforts to end the war in Iraq may be muddled by the growth of ISIS.
Now, past Nobel Prize winners, which include Desmond Tutu and Jody Williams, are pushing the president to live up to their image of an administration dedicated to peace by exposing and taking responsibility for American uses of torture in the war on terror.
"It remains to be seen whether the United States will turn a blind eye to the effects of its actions on its own people and on the rest of the world, or if it will take the necessary steps to recover the standards on which the country was founded, and to once again adhere to the international conventions it helped to bring into being."The current state of "advanced interrogation" or torture by the government is unclear. Past reports and scandals like the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses, the Bagram torture incidents and the case of Khaled El-Masri, who was reportedly anally penetrated by CIA officials, give a glimpse into potentially illegal and inhumane detention practices during the Bush Administration. If and to what extent those policies have continued into the Obama presidency is a matter of debate.
The 12 Nobel Prize winners applauded certain steps the U.S. has taken to fix the problem, including Senator Feinstein's admission after reading the 2012 report, saying it "uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight... [T]he creation of long-term, clandestine 'black sites' and the use of so-called 'enhanced-interrogation techniques' were terrible mistakes."
Still, the peace prize winners believe that the torture scandals will continue to harm the nation until they are fully exposed.
"In recent decades, by accepting the flagrant use of torture and other violations of international law in the name of combating terrorism, American leaders have eroded the very freedoms and rights that generations of their young gave their lives to defend."Specifically, the group wants all black sites dismantled, Guantanamo Bay closed, all information about torture released to the public, and policies to prevent any future use of so-called enhanced interrogation.
The full open letter and petition from the 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners can be found here.
[Image Credit: Samantha Appleton/Wikimedia Commons]