Friday, June 5, 2009

US on human rights: 'credibility problem'

Who is America to judge?
After Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and extraordinary renditions, other countries now challenge America's standing on human rights

The Guardian: The US state department's annual human rights report got an unusual amount of criticism this year. This time the centre-left coalition government of Chile was notable in joining other countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela and China... in questioning the moral authority of the US government's judging other countries' human rights practices.

It's a reasonable question, and the fact that more democratic governments are asking it may signal a tipping point. Clearly, a state that is responsible for such high-profile torture and abuses as took place at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, that regularly killed civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and that reserved for itself the right to kidnap people and send them to prisons in other countries to be tortured... has a credibility problem on human rights issues...

In the past, Washington was able to position itself as an important judge of human rights practices despite being complicit or directly participating in some of the worst, large-scale human rights atrocities of the post-second world war era -- in Vietnam, Indonesia, Central America and other places... The Bush administration's shedding of the constitution at home and overt support for human rights abuses abroad has fostered not only a change in image, but perhaps the standards by which 'the judge' will henceforth be judged.

The Washington Post: China accused the United States... of using a double standard to judge human rights in other countries, adding to a list of nations suggesting that the government... had no business commenting on what happens elsewhere.

'No country should exclude itself from the international human rights development process or view itself as the incarnation of human rights that can reign over other countries and give orders to the others,' Premier Wen Jiabao's cabinet declared... In addition, it used unusually direct language -- for example, charging that the United States 'frequently commits wanton slaughters during external invasions and military attacks.'...

'Unfortunately, [the report] once again gives us reason to say that double standards are a characteristic of the American approach to such an important theme,' the Russian Foreign Ministry declared after reviewing the report. 'Characteristically off-screen is the ambiguous record of the United States itself.'
Image: US WWII  poster; source here.