Does the US value Human Rights?
By Ranjit J Perera
'Stalking from home to home, a United States Army
sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children,
in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting
fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American
officials said,' the New York Times reported Sunday.
In one of the most gruesome human rights abuses in
recent times, a US soldier is reported to have walked
over a mile (1.6 km) from his base in the Panjwai district of Kandahar
Province trying door after door before breaking into three houses and
killing 16 sleeping civilians,
nine of whom were children. Reports quote villagers as saying that he
had collected 11 of the bodies and set fire to them.
Sadly, this is only the latest in a string of
violations of international humanitarian law by US forces stretching
back several years.
Earlier this month, five American servicemen and an
Afghan translator were reported to have
burned copies of the Quran which
were among religious materials seized from a detainee facility at Bagram
Airfield last week, prompting a wave of outrage.
Abu Ghraib prison from where
many abuses were reported was
one of the greatest embarrassments for the US government. Among the
allegations of abuses was the sexual harassment of prisoners and the
frightening of prisoners with dogs and even having them bite some
prisoners. Many other instances of
appalling abuses are believed to have been
suppressed and kept secret even from the Congress.
However, the most infamous and controversial is
perhaps the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. A senior US
government official who investigated practices at the camp admitted
detainee had been tortured.
In July 2010 the Washington Times reported that, 'Like its 2004
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld decision, the Supreme Court's Hamdan ruling
affirms that the United States is engaged in a legally cognizable
armed conflict to which the laws of war apply. It may hold captured
al Qaeda and Taliban operatives throughout that conflict, without
granting them a criminal trial, and is also entitled to try them in
the military justice system - including by military commission.'
The ruling did not deter US forces from killing an
unarmed Osama Bin Laden following an unauthorised foray into Abbottabad
in Pakistan earning the outrage of the Pakistani government and others
who value international humanitarian law.
International law expert Kai Ambos writing in
Der Spiegel says, "A targeted killing of a terrorist does
not, contrary to what US President Barack Obama has suggested, do a
service to justice; rather, it runs contrary to it. A state governed by
the rule of law, treats even its enemies humanely."
The operation which also killed bin Laden's son also
injured or killed his youngest wife who was trying to shield him from
the US attack force.
The entire operation violating international
humanitarian law was watched by President Obama and his senior advisers
'in real time'.
The US however, maintains high moral ground at all
times. The US State Department on its website states: Promoting
freedom and democracy and protecting human rights around the world are
central to U.S. foreign policy. The values captured in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and in other global and regional
commitments are consistent with the values upon which the United States
was founded centuries ago. On the same page, Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton is quoted saying, "In democracies, respecting rights
isn't a choice leaders make day-by-day, it is the reason they govern."
The US has increasingly come in for severe criticism
for violating its international obligations and continued human rights
abuses. Last year, China said, "The United States is beset by
violence, racism and torture and has no authority to condemn other
governments' human rights problems." The Chinese Foreign Ministry
statement followed US criticism of China's human rights record. A
Reuters report quoted a report
published by China's official news agency Xinhua saying, "Stop the
domineering behaviour of exploiting human rights to interfere in the
internal affairs of other countries."
long drawn out row between China and the United States on each
other's' human rights record intensified in 1998 when China first
published what has since become an annual publication titled,
Human Rights Record of the United States.
The UN Human Rights Council's 19th Session in Geneva
heard pious pronouncements from H.E. Ms. Maria Otero, Under Secretary of
State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights of the United
States of America. "When the United States joined the UN Human Rights
Council two years ago, we set forth four values that would guide our
work in this body: universality, dialogue, principle, and truth. We knew
then, as we know now, that the honest dialogue and dedicated effort of
this Council will help all of our nations on the path to international
peace and security."
Making a plea for a second term on the Council she
said, "In the two years since, we have stayed true to those values. But
our global challenges remain-among them, threats to freedoms of
assembly, association, expression and religion and to vulnerable
populations. As we seek a second term on the Council, the United States
stands ready to build on the Council's successes to pursue solutions to
these pressing challenges."
true has the US been to those values? Not very I'm afraid.
Human rights abuses by the US have been consistent
with the regular use of force against various countries.
The arming of rebels and the aggression committed by
NATO forces covered by a see-thru UN resolution in Libya ensured the
unseating of the oil-rich country's long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi.
Videos showing him captured alive and dead thereafter with wounds on his
body were compounded by the sadistic display of the body in a vegetable
display refrigerator without giving a speedy burial according to Islamic
The US is in the forefront of criticism of the Assad
regime in Syria. The lack of any criticism of the rebel forces shows up
US foreign policy inn Syria for what it really is.
The bottom line is that rebels sponsored by various
governments in the name of democracy remain free to violate human rights
Earlier this year, IHR Law reported how family members
of Iraqi civilians killed by Blackwater had agreed to a settlement.
Seventeen Iraqis died in the incident when Blackwater security guards
escorting an American envoy in Baghdad
fired on civilians on a busy street.
Iraqi victims later
spoke about the horrors of that day.
The U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki last
year and followed up by
killing his son too.
Americans have been angered by the lack of due process and the killing
of a child but mostly by
Attorney General Holder's defence of the
The United States also has been using its seat in the
UNHRC to pressure smaller countries like Sri Lanka to achieve their
agenda. The current pressure on this small Indian Ocean Island to
implement an internal government report is such an instance. The Lessons
Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is an indigenous mechanism
initiated by the government of Sri Lanka as part of its overall
reconciliation and normalisation effort following the end of the
conflict in 2009. It was not initiated following international pressure.
To call upon the Sri Lankan government to implement same is much like
asking the USA to investigate and prosecute the soldier who killed 16
civilians in Afghanistan.
The United States would need moral authority to police
the world. They would need also to ensure that justice is not only done
but must also seem to be done. It is a pity that the United States uses
double standards with regard to human rights. The world needs to know
whether the US remains true to its commitments to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights or whether the
soldiers who urinated on dead bodies
is a reflection of US policy on human rights.
Courtesy : Daily news