Seventy six people were killed in extrajudicial killing in the month of June, 2015. No, this did not happen in Bangladesh, but in US, the global guardian angel of democracy and human rights and the country where great proponents of democracy and human rights like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Dr.Martin Luther King jr., once lived and swayed their nation and the world with their words and actions to protect democracy and human rights. The figures are from US media (killedbypolice.net). Every year US Sate Department routinely accuses different countries of human rights violation but seldom looks inward and sees anything wrong in their own backyard. This year it was no exception. It came down heavily on countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Egypt, North Korea, Myanmar and of course Bangladesh. Excepting Iran, North Korea, Myanmar and Bangladesh all other countries’ political system were dismantled by US and its own allies in the name of exporting democracy. Korean Peninsula was bifurcated with the help of US in the 50s and Myanmar’s military junta was never seriously seen as a destroyer of democracy in the country. The Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is seen as saviour of democracy in Myanmar but was never criticised for her failure in condemning the systemic annihilation of Myanmar’s Rohingya minorities by the junta. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Egypt were or are ruled by dictators but they were able to contain the religious militancy and violence within their own boundaries but the US military intervention in these countries just dismantled the state apparatus and created demons like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab and IS. There is a unanimous agreement, even within US, that all these militant outfits are armed with US weapons and sources of their funding are believed to be in US and Europe. This is a shame and more of shame is US publishing reports of human rights violations in other countries.
As a departure from the usual practice where UN Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or US Department of State this year the information office of China’s State Council, the country’s Cabinet, published a report on ‘terrible’ US Human Rights Record recently which was carried by most of the leading US dailies on June 26, 2015. Though China has regularly been publishing such reports since 1990, this year it was more extensive, well documented and sources used American. The report commented that ‘while its own (US) human rights situation was increasingly grave, the US violated human rights in other countries in a more brazen manner.’ Notwithstanding the fact that China itself does not have a good track record of human rights issues in its own country it is commendable that they were able to produce a document stating the status of human rights issues in US, the self-proclaimed guardian angel and defender of global human rights and democracy. The report states that there were 551 extrajudicial killing in US in 2014 by the law enforcing agencies and US’s record remained blotted by rampant gun crime, racial discrimination, pernicious influence of money in politics, widening income and social inequality, and state infringements on individual privacy. (The WSJ, June 26, 2015). On an average local police kills 400 people per year according to a news report published in the USA Today on August 15, 2014. Most of the victims that fall victim to police killing are American-Africans, often out of mere suspicion and racial hatred. An unarmed 18 year-old African-American Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, a small town in Missouri last year sparking widespread rioting in the town. After Grand Jury of both Missouri and New York decided to bring no charge against the white police officer, massive protests broke out in more than 170 cities nationwide. (NYT. November 25, 2014). A 12 year child was shot dead in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 4, 2014, while he was playing with a toy gun in a park. The report goes on narrating how US also violated human rights abroad through the use of torture, mass electronic surveillance of foreign governments and citizens, and frequent military drone attacks that have inflicted civilian casualties. The US Embassy in Beijing declined immediate comment on China’s allegations, but referred to remarks made by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who acknowledged US shortcomings on human rights. (WSJ).
The Chinese report states that the US used cruel tortures, indiscriminately, notably those carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). To acquire intelligence from suspects of terrorism and extremism, the CIA used brutal methods, such as sleep deprivation, waterboarding, long-term solitary confinement, slamming against wall, lashing, death thereat and even ‘rectal rehydration” or rectal feeding. On number of occasions UNHRC and Committee Against Torture had raised their concern over issues in the US, including terrible detention conditions for convicts awaiting execution, abuse of brutal methods, secret detention, indefinite arbitrary detention, and illegal wire-tapping which infringed citizen’s privacy. (www.un.org).
The US is a country which is witnessing rapid return of racial and institutional discrimination against ethnic minorities, reminding the countries dark days of racial divide of the 50’s and 60’s. Racial bias in law enforcement and judicial system is very distinct in US. Compared with other ethnic groups, African-Americans are more likely to become victims of police shooting. Police killings of African-Americans during law enforcement have practically become ‘normal’ where the current US President is of African-American origin. After the general election of January 5, 2014 in Bangladesh US continuously termed it flawed as BNP and its allies did not participate but in US money has become a deciding factor in the US politics, and US citizens’ political rights were not properly protected. Despite the highest midterm election (Senate) spending in US history, the general election voter turnout for the 2014 midterm was the lowest since the World War II. Unfettered corporate political donations became ‘legalized bribery’ (USA Today, October 11, 2013). During the 2014 campaign season, corporate money in the election exceeded 53 million dollars, up from 16 million in 2010 (USA Today, September 10, 2014). The voting rights in the US are restricted by economic income, race and other factors, and many citizens were prevented from voting. Preliminary exit polls showed that voters of African origins accounted for 12 percent in the 2014 midterm election, down from 13 percent in the 2012 presidential election. Hispanic voters dropped from 10 percent in 2012 to 8 percent and the proportion of Asian voters also reduced to two percent from three (USA Today, November 5, 2014). The American citizens have increasingly lost confidence in electoral politics.
The report comes down heavily on treatment of American women and children’s rights and states their rights were not fully protected. Women were discriminated at workplaces, and domestic violence was rampant. Each year 2.1 million American women on average were assaulted by men. Three females were murdered by their partner each day, and four females died each day as a result of physical assault. US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence-gathering apparatus of US for a long time have spied on world leaders and civilians. The NSA intercepted phone conversations of 35 world leaders, including Secretary-General of the United Nations, German Chancellor and Brazilian President (The Guardian, October 25, 2013).
US takes its own way on international human rights law. To date, the US still denies that the right of development is a human right. In September 2014 when a draft resolution on the right of development was tabled for a vote at the 27th session of the UNHRC, the US was the only nation to vote against it. Though the country has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1977, it has not ratified it so far. Though US claimed it valued the rights of women and children, yet 34 years after it signed the Convention on all Forms of Discrimination against Women, it has not ratified the treaty. It has neither ratified the Convention on the Rights of Child 19 years after signing it.
The Chinese report on the human rights conditions in US is well documented and extensive. The US so far has not denied the contents of the report and unlike many such earlier reports or criticisms by China on many US policies neither trashed it. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, United States emerged as the sole protector of human rights and democracy around the world but unfortunately failed to protect in own backyard. It regularly dishes out sermons to rest of the world, but has different yardstick for its own. Our opposition political leaders uses what the US says to criticise and snipe the party in power not realising the fact that the country that prepares such a document has a dirty backyard of its own and lacks credibility. Whatever is happening in US currently is a testimony that US, the country that people like Jefferson, John Adams, Madison, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Dr. Martin Luther King managed to create is returning back to ages of racial discrimination, segregation and to the era of KKK, the ultra rightist racial organisation, whose main motto is to claim America for the whites only. If US wants that its sermons to the rest of the world be heard and taken seriously, it must be prepared to practice what it preaches. Otherwise it is better to leave the rest of the world to itself and stop ‘exporting democracy’ to its chosen countries. The world will be much more peaceful than it is now.
The writer is an analyst and a commentator