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Friday
Apr012011

A Growing Rift Between the Human Rights Community and President Obama?

Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- With President Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya, some within the human rights community are raising questions about Obama’s approach to intervention in humanitarian crises.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, has pointed to what she calls a “perturbing effort” on the part of the Obama administration to draw distinctions between humanitarian crises.

“We expect and hope that the Obama administration will have one consistent standard in how it judges and reacts to human rights crises and emergencies,” Whitson says.

In an address to the nation on Monday night, Obama explained the Libyan intervention is distinct and necessary because U.S. interests were at stake, he said. In addition to pointing to the need to stop the killing of “innocent people” by Gadhafi’s forces, the president said it was necessary for regional stability.

The president has also recently expressed concern and issued strong words on other humanitarian conflicts underway, including releasing a video message expressing support for the people of Cote d’Ivoire, but some within the human rights community wonder if this is little more than lip service.

Whitson points out that there is a wide “tool box of diplomatic actions” beyond military action, ranging from asset freezes to special UN sessions, that the United States can and should utilize in other humanitarian crises such as Bahrain and Yemen.

Eric Reeves, a Sudan Researcher and Analyst at Smith College calls the president’s decision to intervene in Libya “profoundly inconsistent” when considered next to his administration’s approach with Sudan.

The president brought attention back to the continued instability in Sudan Thursday by appointing Ambassador Princeton Lyman as a replacement for Scott Gration as the new U.S. envoy to the country.

In a written statement, President Obama calls on Lyman to offer support in bringing a “definitive end” to the Darfur conflict, among other responsibilities.

The President met with Lyman Friday. According to a readout of the meeting, the president urged Lyman to “increase efforts towards achieving a lasting ceasefire and political settlement at Darfur peace negotiations in Doha.”

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