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NOW on the News
9.8.06

NOW on the News with Maria Hinojosa

Former U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson

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Maria Hinojosa talks to former U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson about the world's changing view of America since September 11.



U.S. Urged To Change Course in War

In the week that President Bush admitted to secret CIA prisons and linked Bin Laden to Hitler, the former U.N. Human Right Commissioner, Mary Robinson called on the administration to change its course in the so-called 'war on terror.'

Mary Robinson Robinson said in the post September 11th world that the U.S. has lost its moral authority and called on America to return to its leading position as a champion of human rights.

"You cannot have images of Abu Ghraib and then talk about bringing freedom and democracy to the world," she said. "The United States is under a very close scrutiny because it is the standard bearer. And if it doesn't uphold those standards, they dip. And we all suffer."

The former President of Ireland, believes better police work and collaboration with foreign governments on intelligence is the key to bringing terrorists to justice. That kind of successful surveillance, she said, is what led Britain to thwart an alleged terrorist plot last month to blow up several U.S.-bound airplanes.

"It wasn't holding people in a Guantanamo Bay-like situation and torturing them that brought about the knowledge that there was a threat on the airplanes," Robinson said.

Robinson called Bush's linking Bin Laden to Adolf Hitler in a speech this week an attempt to "muddy the ground to fight an election," adding it was "sad rhetorical language." Instead the U.S. should focus on 'real issues,' she said, such as the recent conflict between Lebanon and Israel. She also urged the U.S. to open up discussions with the Palestinian ruling party, Hamas.

Robinson believes that the war in Iraq has increased the risk of a terror attack. "It has actually brought about a situation where there's such sense of humiliation and hatred and it's really very worrying," she said.

America's detention policies have led many countries that were sympathetic toward the U.S. following the September 11th attacks to change their views, Robinson believes. "The world was never more united than immediately after 9-11. Those acts were condemned everywhere" On the fifth anniversary of the attacks she called on the U.S. to reassert its standards. "It's just so badly needed," she said.

About Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, first rose to prominence as an academic, lawyer, campaigner and member of the Irish senate.

She became known in Ireland as a strong supporter of women's rights - campaigning for the liberalization of laws prohibiting divorce and abortion. Outside the country, she gained a reputation as a prominent human rights lawyer.

After her 1990 inauguration as the first female president of Ireland, Robinson used the office to draw attention to global crises. She was the first head of state to visit famine-stricken Somalia in 1992, and the first to go to Rwanda after the genocide.

From 1997 to 2002, Robinson served as the U.N. human rights commissioner. While she won the praise of human rights advocates, she angered some governments for her outspoken criticism of their human rights records.

Well known for her direct approach, she made a vocal plea for a pause in the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan following the September 11th terrorist attacks to allow for more incoming food aid.

By the time she left her post at the U.N., Robinson had turned the office into one of the most high profile departments within the world body. But she believed she could achieve more for human rights "outside of the constraints that a multilateral organization inevitably imposes".

Since leaving the U.N. Mary Robinson has continued to speak out about human rights issues and has criticized the U.S. for its policies in the so-called 'war on terror.'

Robinson currently heads up the Ethical Globalization Initiative, a New York-based organization that works to ensure that corporations adhere to human rights standards. She is married to Nicholas Robinson, a lawyer, conservationist, and an authority on eighteenth-century caricature. They have a daughter and two sons.

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