The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, probably the most respected daily in Norway, has published an article by Norwegian Humanist leaders. It is a stark critique of American foreign policy, treatment of prisoners, violation of human rights etc – all on an ethical and Humanist basis. The article has been signed by all secretary generals throughout the history of IHEU member organization Norwegian Humanist Association.
USA – a civilisation in decay
Through the development of the constitutional state in the 20th Century, a wall has been built against barbarism and important steps have been taken towards the development of an international legal order. This legal system may contribute to closer relations between states and a safer world for the global population, and in this connection Human Rights are a vital element. However, the world has also experienced serious setbacks in recent years.
Through the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America has contributed as a model state in the historical development process. The Declaration states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And further more: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
On this basis, the USA has established a legal system protecting individual rights and rule of law, and contributed to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. It is thus with great worry and regret that we observe the USA undermining its finest contributions to human society. The USA is not at present following the values and ideals of a constitutional state. USA, once a model state by its contributions to the trials against the Nazi criminals in the aftermath of World War II, is today struggling to undermine and be exempted from the International Criminal Court.
We are troubled and scared by the fact that people are imprisoned incommunicado and without sentence, and are exposed to deeply offensive torture – within the USA; on the Guantanamo base on Cuba; in the Abu Ghraib-prison in Iraq; and on the Baghram-base in Afghanistan. Just as serious is the infringement caused by the kidnapping and transporting of prisoners across borders in order to be handed over to torturing units. The evidence suggests that such incidents are the results of a systematic weakening of US traditional legal guarantees, international human rights and the international legal system, and important American officials and politicians are responsible. The claim that these methods are necessary in the fight against terrorism cannot be validated. If the values and ideals of civilisation are set aside, we will all suffer – as the enemies of human rights, democracy and freedom are strengthened. Civilisation is best defended by obeying its values in practice.
We deeply regret the fact that the USA through its policies contributes to the decay of civilisation. We are in line with large groups of the Americans people when we demand that the USA changes its policies and practice so that the norms of the constitutional state again are respected. For many years, the USA has been one of Norway’s closest allies. American values have also been an ideal, but there is a growing awareness in the Norwegian people that this is no longer the case. We therefore implore Norwegian authorities to confront the USA with its crude violations of individuals and international law.
Norway and our allies must uncompromisingly defend the values of our civilisation. It is our duty to confront our allies when they violate basic human rights and harm the efforts to reach international understanding, respect and cooperation. We expect a response from Ambassador Benson K. Whitney and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, to this challenge.
Kristin Mile, Secretary General, and Fredrik S. Heffermehl, Levi Fragell, Kari Vigeland, Lars Gunnar Lingà¥s, Tove Beate Pedersen and Lars Gule, all former Secretary Generals of the Norwegian Humanist Association