The day America lost its status as the ‘ultimate defender’ of human rights — Analysis
The day that the United States was elected to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is May 4, 2001. It should have been a timely wakeup call for the superpower. It became even more reckless at the international stage.
With the benefit of hindsight, there was no loss of irony about Washington losing its seat on the body for the first time since the panel’s founding in 1947. That’s because, as far as America’s track record on human rights was concerned, the ‘best’ was yet to come. The United States would soon rewrite history for the inhumane actions it displayed during its long-running War on Terror. While that’s something no one predicted back in May 2001 is possible, it could be that America felt lost in its moral compass.
The Geneva-based group claimed that the voting decision was a result of Washington’s increasing dissatisfaction with Washington’s commitment to international agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol. In direct opposition to the opinions of its European allies, George W. Bush withdrew Washington’s tentative support for the measure, arguing it would cause “serious harm to the US economy.”
Another cited reason for the Americans being ousted from their chair was due to the relentless support of Israel over the latter’s perennial conflict with the Palestinians. The UN Security Council tried in March 2001 to create a new resolution after enduring non-stop acts of violence and murder, while the Palestinian side was the worst affected. “an appropriate mechanism to protect Palestinian civilians, including through the establishment of a United Nations observer force.”As expected, only the United States voted against the motion. The other four members abstained. Although almost all US vetoes against Israel were cast after 1988, they blocked any resolutions that targeted Israel. This is because the US claimed that Palestinian terrorist groups weren’t adequately condemned.
The decision to remove the USA from the international human rights club was not unanimous. Amnesty International, for example, jumped to America’s defense, calling its removal “part of an effort by nations that routinely violate human rights to escape scrutiny.”
Whatever the truth, America’s seat was taken away. Washington’s arrogant behavior and inability to listen was not the only reason it lost its seat. Its behaviour actually got worse over the years.
In his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, George W. Bush branded three countries — North Korea, Iran and Iraq — as an “axis of evil.” Just prior to the US leader casting judgment on those nations, Washington opened the doors to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp (Gitmo), or, as Amnesty International famously dubbed it, “the Gulag of our time.”
Gitmo, located at Guantanamo Naval base on Cuba’s southern tip, has come to be synonymous with brutality and torture as well as the perversion or injustice of justice.
Moazzam Begg, a prisoner-turned-activist who spent three years at Gitmo, described the horrors he witnessed. “I saw two people beaten to death,”Begg spoke to RT. “I saw one prisoner with his hands tied above his head to the top of the cage being repeatedly punched and kicked until he was killed. The Americans have accepted that this was a homicide.”
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the first prisoner’s arrival at Guantánamo Bay. Nearly twenty years later, the U.S. “war on terror” has ended. 39 Americans are currently held in Guantanamo Bay. They have been subject to torture and other horrible conditions for nearly two decades. #OTDpic.twitter.com/ajHlKczLiE
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) January 11, 2022
The United States also allegedly committed serious human rights violations in Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq, back in April 2004. Euphemistically described as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ prisoners were systematically tortured, raped and sodomized. The Guardian featured some disturbing images. It is recommended that viewers exercise caution.
Against all expectations, America’s human rights record did not get better with the arrival of Barack Obama, America’s first black president who rose to power on the promise of “hope and change.” In 2016 alone, on Obama’s watch, US forces dropped some 26,171 bombs on foreign countries. Both Syria and Iraq were attacked approximately 12,000 times, with Afghanistan (337) and Libya (496), Somalia (35), Yemen (35), Somalia (14) and Pakistan (33) also being targeted. Barack Obama’s last year of office saw him at war more times than any previous president.
What has the United States learnt in the decades that have passed since it was voted out of the UN commission’s voting? It would seem not, judging by some of its most ardent detractors. In 2010, the Australian activist Julian Assange published a series of leaked documents – with Hollywood-sounding names like ‘Collateral Murder’ and ‘Iraq War Logs’ detailing possible war crimes by the US military – provided by Army analyst Chelsea Manning.
He was granted asylum in London by Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years on grounds of political persecution. Assange was wanted in Sweden, where he was accused of sex assault. However, he feared that American prosecutors would arrest him. The US government indicted him for violating 1917’s Espionage Act. This move was strongly condemned by the media as violating the First Amendment. As Assange is alleged to be in worsening health, Assange has been held at London’s Belmarsh maximum secure prison since April 2019.
Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the former CIA analyst turned whistleblower, has also paid a hefty price for shining a light on some of the US government’s less admirable activities, like spying on citizens both at home and abroad. Snowden is currently living in Russia and awaits when he can return home to Russia.
For those believing inhumane treatment was reserved for “terrorists” and “traitors,” just this week, Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko returned home after enduring more than a decade in a US prison over his alleged involvement in a drug-smuggling scheme. Yaroshenko shared the horrific experiences he endured during those years.
“There was a torture room where I was tortured for two-and-a-half days. This was both physical and psychological torture with great pressure. At some point, I didn’t even want to live… I didn’t want to return back into this world.”
This is clearly not what one would expect of a country who regularly judges other countries. The saying about ‘people who live in glass houses’ comes to mind. People who live by the principles they teach are more likely to give unprompted sermons about human rights.
These opinions, statements and thoughts are the sole opinion of the author. They do not necessarily reflect those made by RT.