Human Rights Activists Troubled by Administration's Approach

The Obama administration has backed away from overt expressions of support for human rights and democracy in favor of a more subtle approach, worrying advocates who say that the issues are being given short shrift as President Obama seeks to rebuild relations with allies and reach out to adversaries.

Although Obama moved quickly to announce the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, drawing praise from human rights activists, many say other actions by the administration have been troubling. Administration officials have suggested that sanctions against human rights pariahs Burma and Sudan could be eased, that concerns over China’s treatment of Tibetans and dissidents should take a back seat to issues such as climate change, and that the United States might once again grant Egypt’s autocratic government veto power over the disbursement of U.S. funds to nongovernmental groups.

Administration officials acknowledge they have approached the issue of human rights differently but deny that there has been a reduction in commitment. Instead, they say, they are first seeking to restore U.S. credibility on the issue by acknowledging U.S. failings and then pushing for progress on human rights and democracy.

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