The Obama administration has the opportunity to make its stance on torture clear in the coming weeks. For the first time since the president took office, the White House is sending a delegation to testify before the Committee Against Torture in Geneva in November. In December, back at home, they’ll need to explain their controversial decision to withhold up to 2,100 photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqi and Afghan detainees in their custody.
If the current administration wants to distance itself from the abuses of the previous one — an intention the president has stated repeatedly from his first day in office — human rights advocates say this is the time to show it, not merely by condemning or prohibiting torture, but by unequivocally stating that it is illegal anywhere, and coming clean on violations the US has committed over the last decade.
In 2009, a day after taking office, Obama made clear his condemnation of the Bush administration’s practices and signed an executive order prohibiting torture as an interrogation tactic. As part of the same effort, he also ordered Guantanamo closed, which has yet to happen.