If her loudly proclaimed concern about the violation of human rights has anything genuine about it, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US Secretary of State must be trying hard to hide her face after former US President and Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter charged the Obama administration of the widespread abuse of human rights.
In a clear condemnation of the policies of the US on human rights after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, and the acceleration of this trend by the Obama Administration, Jimmy Carter’s Op-Ed in the New York Times of June 25, 2012 stands out as the strongest criticism of US policy on human rights and violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), by a former President of the USA and a widely acknowledged champion of human rights.
Titled “The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human right”, The Carter Op-Ed opens by stating that: “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.
‘‘This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
This is a hardly veiled attack on President Obama himself and his close associates in the US administration on defence, foreign policy and homeland security. Recalling that the UDHR was adopted in 1948 with leadership of the US as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” which was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile, President Carter states that today, when the UDHA is invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs, he finds it “disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counter-terrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Global champion of human rights
The Carter critique of the Obama/Clinton policies that are abandoning the US role as the global champion of human rights, shows how it clearly violates every aspect of human rights violations it accuses other countries of, especially in the fight against terrorism, while itself carrying out the most gross violation of human rights in its declared war on terror.
With Hillary Clinton being the most vocal and visible US critic of other countries and governments on issues of human rights, most of the charges made by the US through her are made to stand on their head by Carter’s condemnation of what is taking place within and outside the US on matters involving human rights and the freedoms of democracy.
He shows how the US having got a seat in the UN Human Rights Council, is manipulating the global issues of human rights against other countries, while carrying out the most blatant violations of the very rights is claims to uphold and accuses other of their violations be it on war crimes or violation of humanitarian law.
He is well focused on how the Obama administration targets people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, and its use of unmanned drone attacks that admittedly kills many civilians while striking at those who the US readily lists as terrorists.
Here are some relevant excerpts from President Carter’s Op-Ed. “Recent legislation has made legal the President’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or 'associated forces,' a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.
International human rights norms
In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.
Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable.
After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone.
We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.
These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behaviour.
Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners.
About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers.
Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of 'national security.' Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.
At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.
As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.
President Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton will only have to look at themselves in the mirror to get a good image of persons who are among the most ruthless violators of human rights in their own country and abroad, while preaching to the world of the need to protect these rights, threatening sanctions and other punishments on leaders and nations it charges are violators of these rights and democratic freedoms.
Having read (as she must have) President Carter’s comments on the US attack on human rights, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethan Pillay, will now have to look much harder in the direction of Washington, before making threats and charges, and repeating unverified allegations about violations of human rights by other countries, that lack the economic and military strength of the United States.