Law Speak – Mirror, mirror on the wall!

THE US monitors the human rights record of all countries by faithfully releasing country reports on human rights practices every year without fail. It just released the 2015 report on April 13. But strangely it fails always to reflect on its own situation, implying that its record is exemplary. But is it?

China produced a report titled “Human Rights Record of the US in 2015” because the US government “refuses to hold a mirror to look at itself”. The well-documented report shows that the US 2015 human rights record is as bad if not worse than that of the countries it routinely condemns.

Replete with data and citations from respectable Western sources, the report shows civil rights abuses: rampant gun-related crimes and excessive use of force by the police with 51,675 incidents resulting in 13,136 deaths and 26,493 injured. The US police shot dead 965 people.

In the economic and social rights sphere, more than 560,000 people were rendered homeless and 33 million had no health insurance, depriving them of health care.

Worse was the US violation of human rights of others overseas. From August 2014 to December 2015 it launched 3,965 strikes in Iraq and 2,283 in Syria causing civilian deaths estimated at 1,695 to 2,239. The failed promise to close Guantanamo prison, the detention without trial of persons from all over the world, and the torture of its detainees condemned even by the US Congress as being in serious violation of US law for which the people’s tribunal – KL War Crimes Tribunal – had convicted Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their advisers of war crimes.

Even more appalling is the sustained murder of civilians through remote-controlled drones. Up to 90% of deaths in a five-month period in Afghanistan were not the intended target, according to the UK Daily Mail newspaper. The Washington Post report of April 2015 said a study documenting 415 strikes in Pakistan and Yemen since the Sept 11, 2011 attacks shows the number of killed civilians between 423 and 962. Of the two books introduced by the Washington Post to its readers, one describes US killer drone policy as “the culmination of a historical pattern of lies, deception and greed in the deployment of lethal military force around the world” and as a “continuation of previous US assassination policy”; the other author notes that “assassination by robot is bound to inspire rather than curtail extremism”. Both books refer to this as an “inhumane form of warfare” where “there is no victory, just perpetual elimination”. To put it bluntly, it is clear cold-blooded murder with impunity.

Race relations are at an all-time low. Racial tensions are at an all-time high. In a Facebook post the civil rights organisation, Black Lives Matter, noted “the era of white supremacist terrorism against people of colour across the US”.
The US has also been exposed for spying on leaders as reported by the BBC on April 30, 2015. The Independent reported that the US bugged the phones of three French presidents. And we all know the furore caused with the phone-tapping of German and Brazilian leaders.

For all its bravado posturing, the US has yet to ratify core human rights UN conventions including: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is the only country that is yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. China’s report also notes that the US often stalls or turns a deaf ear to criticisms from the Human Rights Council High Commissioners. And on Sept 28, 2015 it voted against the Human Rights Council’s resolution related to development rights. As it has always done. Especially with regard to the council’s condemnation of Israel’s human rights abuses with regard to occupied Palestine.

This is not to suggest that the violations of human rights practices that the US exposes annually should be discounted or ignored. Just that it would make for better credibility if it either acknowledged in the same reports its own record of violations; or makes an attempt to rectify its own human rights infirmities before being so bold as to condemn others so readily and condescendingly.

Finally, those bodies from the US which provide financial aid, training and “advice” to developing countries’ NGOs on human rights issues would inspire greater confidence if they too espoused a more balanced approach to improving human rights globally, including, if not starting with, their homeland.

Then they will not be outraged like Snow White’s step-mother when the mirror does not show them as being the fairest of them all!

Gurdial just ended his 16-year stint as a law professor at University of Malaya. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Posted on 24 April 2016 – 07:26pm
Gurdial Singh Nijar

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