Kenneth Roth
Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
01:54

Re: How can the U.S. regain its standing the world?

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The U.S. must reestablish its moral authority.

Kenneth Roth

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, has investigated human rights abuses around the globe, with special expertise on issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed in the quest for peace; military conduct in war under the requirements of international humanitarian law; counterterrorism policy including resort to torture and arbitrary detention; the human rights policies of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations; and the human rights responsibilities of multinational businesses. Mr. Roth has published more than 100 articles and chapters on a range of human rights topics. Before joining HRW as deputy director in 1987, Mr. Roth was a federal prosecutor for both the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University.

Transcript
In my view, the greatest task facing, say, the next American president on the foreign policy realm is to reestablish the moral authority of the United States as a human rights actor. Now I don’t wanna overstate the case. The U.S. does still have an important voice, say, to stop genocide. The U.S. has actually been an important rhetorical voice on Darfur because the United States does not commit mass murder. It’s not, you know, ethnically cleansing hundreds of thousands of people. So in that sense there is some still residual moral authority to the United States. The U.S. can also credibly promote democracy because, you know, whatever flaws we have in the United States, it still is a credible democracy. But the U.S. cannot with a straight fact promote the fight against torture; the fight against forcible disappearance; the fight against arbitrative detention; the fight against unfair trial; because there are all abuses that the Bush administration has practiced in the name of fighting terrorism. So the real challenge facing a new government is to end those practices; to repudiate them; to hold the authors accountable in some meaningful way; and to recommit the United States to serious respect for human rights even in the tough moments – even when the U.S. is at threat. And in doing that, I think that the United States can reclaim its position as one of the leaders, if not the leader of the human rights movement at the governmental level. That is absolutely essential, I think, in the long term if the human rights movement is to have the power that it has enjoyed in an earlier era.

Recorded on: 8/14/07


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