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Rights Group: US Should Restore Leadership

A U.S.-based human rights group says the Bush administration has caused enormous damage to the country's human rights reputation. Human Rights Watch is urging President-Elect Barack Obama to restore the country's position by putting human rights at the heart of its foreign, domestic, and security policy.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, says the policies of President Bush in the past eight years have discredited the United States as a force for human rights in the world.

Human Rights Watch says countries like China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Russia that oppose human rights enforcement, are influencing the rights agenda.

Roth says the United States failed as an advocate for human rights in the world when the Bush administration decided to fight terrorism without regard for basic freedoms.

"The United States has effectively withdrawn from the defense of human rights in many situations because of its own human rights practices, because it can't overcome the hypocrisy factor of protesting torture, or disappearance or detention without trial," said Kenneth Roth.

Roth says the United States has a chance to regain its global credibility by reversing the abusive policies of the Bush administration.

In its latest report, Human Rights Watch calls on the incoming administration of President Elect Barack Obama to close the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the release or prosecution of all the terrorism suspects in custody. Roth says other countries should help the United States relocate the detainees.

"We have been actively encouraging close U.S. allies to recognize that Guantanamo may have been Bush's problem but now it's everyone's problem, and other governments should help President Obama close Guantanamo as expeditiously as possible," he said.

In addition to highlighting human rights abuses caused by armed conflicts like the fighting in Gaza, the human rights report also documents political repression in a number of countries. It singles out South Africa for failing to address the conflict in neighboring Zimbabwe and Egypt for helping reduce scrutiny on the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.