Sen. Patrick Leahy on Thursday classified Guantanamo Bay and the way the U.S. military uses drones as “defining challenges” for the country in regard to human rights.
The Vermont Democrat gave the keynote address for the 2013 Human Rights Summit, an event hosted by Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization.
“For more than a decade, the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo has contradicted our most basic principles of justice, degraded our international standing as a champion of human rights, and rather than helping our national security it has actually harmed it,” Leahy said.
He added that U.S. officials “condemn” other governments when they take similar actions, and they “should not tolerate” such practices within the U.S. government.
Amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have made closing the detention center more difficult failed to gain passage in the Senate. But similar provisions were included in the version of the legislation that House members passed.
The senator spoke out against the government’s backing of torture after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He called torture “counter to our core morals and values” and said it should not “be cloaked in euphemisms like ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ or justified by twisted and flawed legal analyses.”
Leahy also targeted the government’s use of drones, noting that while he thinks the military should be able to use the devices in armed conflicts it must be “in accordance with international humanitarian law.”
“I remain very concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding these operations, and the alleged use of ‘signature strikes,’ ” he said.
Leahy suggested that the international law that governs drones should be reexamined and possibly tightened. It isn’t the first time the senator has voiced his concerns about the U.S. drone program. He pressed earlier this year for greater transparency for members of Congress and the public.