Tomorrow is the 61st anniversary of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands. Created after the atrocities of World War II, the court continues to grow as a protector of human rights. Today, the United States’ treatment of the detainees at its Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba stands as a constant reminder that fundamental human rights are still threatened. Though President Barack Obama recently announced that he will close the detention center, the United States still has much work to do to make up for its questionable human rights record. The nation should proceed from the closing of Guantanamo Bay to take up its responsibility as a world leader in the fight for human rights, at home and abroad.

The symbol of America’s disrespect for basic human rights, the Guantanamo Bay detention center was established by the Bush administration in 2002 to hold prisoners who were captured in the war in Afghanistan. All of these prisoners were denied their right to challenge their detentions. Some were tortured. And because they were labeled “enemy combatants,” they were supposed beyond the protective reach of the Geneva Convention.

Three times, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that parts of what was going on at Guantanamo Bay were unconstitutional. In its latest ruling, the Court asserted that these detainees have a right to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts. Since this decision last year, conditions at Guantanamo have improved. But the center remained as a symbolic representation of the Bush administration’s flagrant disregard for human rights. For this reason, on Jan. 22, only a few weeks into his presidency, Obama announced that he would close the detention center at Guantanamo within a year.

While the center’s closure is long overdue, we can’t forget that more dubious instances of human rights abuses are still being perpetuated by the United States. Until January, the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to torture prisoners, though “torture” was cleverly disguised as “special interrogation techniques.” Additionally, the United States still exports prisoners and tortures them behind the borders of countries that do not uphold the Geneva Conventions.

At the same time, human rights violations aren’t just occurring in secret locations around the globe. Several human rights groups have expressed their concern that the way the United States treats its criminals constitutes a human rights failing. Immigration policy is another area where the United States’ record is dismal. Obama has very real human rights crises to address right here and right now. Simply closing Guantanamo’s doors won’t solve these problems.

The government must recognize that these practices, no matter where they are, are wrong. Obama’s efforts to stop torture speaks to the United State’s commitment to human rights — and it’s about time. The United States has been sending the wrong message on human rights for far too long. It’s difficult for international efforts against torture to gain the credibility they deserve when the United States isn’t lending its full support. The United States has a responsibility to lead the fight to end human rights violations.

It’s time for Obama to make the United States’ commitment to human rights mean more than just words.

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