Is The United States A Violator Or A Protector Of Human Rights?
By Lakshman Indranath Keerthisinghe
The crab instructs it’s young “Walk straight ahead – like me”
It was reported recently that an American soldier had gone on the rampage and shot down 16 innocent unarmed civilians including women and children at their homes in Afghanistan.. Speaking about this blatant human rights violation the President of the USA Barack Obama shedding crocodile tears about alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, said that he regretted the incident. The fact that Obama should be produced before the International Criminal Court owing to his command responsibility appears to be lost on the international community and the United Nations. Wikepedia states that beginning in 2004, human rights violations in the form of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, including torture reports of rape, sodomy and homicide of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad Correctional Facility came to public attention. These acts were committed by military police personnel of the United States Army together with additional US governmental agencies. Revealed in the Tagoba Report, an initial criminal investigation by the US Army Criminal Command had already been underway, where soldiers of the 320th Military Police Battalion had been charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with prisoner abuse. In 2004, articles describing the abuse, including pictures showing military personnel appearing to abuse prisoners, came to public attention, when a 60 Minutes II news report (April 28) and an article by Seymour M Hersh in The New Yorker magazine (posted online on April 30 and published days later in the May 10 issue) reported the story.
The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib was in part the reason that on April 12, 2006, the US Army activated the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion, the first of four joint interrogation battalions. In September 2010 Amnesty International warned in a report titled Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq that up to 30,000 prisoners, including many veterans of the US detention system, remain detained without rights in Iraq and are frequently tortured or abused. Furthermore, it describes a detention system that has not evolved since Saddam Hussein’s regime, in which human right abuses were endemic with arbitrary arrests and secret detention common and a lack of accountability throughout the security forces. Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, Malcolm Smart went on to say that “Iraq’s security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees’ rights and they have been permitted. US authorities, whose own record on detainees’ rights has been so poor, have now handed over thousands of people detained by US forces to face this catalogue of illegality, violence and abuse, abdicating any responsibility for their human rights.
On October 22, 2010 nearly 400,000 secret US army field reports and war logs, detailing torture, summary executions and war crimes, were passed on to the British paper, the Guardian and several other international media organizations through the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. Among others, the logs detail how US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished and that US troops abused prisoners for years even after the Abu Ghraib scandal. On June 27, 2011 the US Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of lawsuits from a group of 250 Iraqis who wanted to sue the two contractors CACI International Inc, and Titan Corp. (now a subsidiary of L.3 Communications over claims of abuse by interrogators and translators at the prison. The suits had been dismissed by the lower courts on the grounds that the companies held a derivative sovereign immunity from suits based on their status as government contractors pursuant to a battle-field pre-emption doctrine.’
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was originally a US naval base in Cuba, but has since evolved to become a detention center for suspected terrorists and enemy combatants. Since 1903, at the signing of the American-Cuban treaty, the Cubans agreed to give control of the territory of Guantanamo Bay to the USA. The American-Cuban treaty was signed before the major conflict between Cuba and the USA erupted. This conflict essentially began with Fidel Castro’s ascension to power. He began to ‘sell’ Cuban land that was partially owned by the American government, and offered a compensation which the Americans thought to be inadequate. With the added growing relationship between Cuba and the Soviet Union, who were also American enemies, the US cut all economic and social ties with Cuba, making them enemies. Yet, this small piece of land, known as Guantanamo Bay, still belongs to the US. In the Guantanamo Bay detention center, over the past six years, several human rights abuses have been observed. Guantanamo Bay is essentially a detention center for suspected terrorists and those who are considered enemies of the US. Of these so called terrorists, very few or none of them have actually been proven guilty and none of them, have been given a trial. Furthermore these so called POWs are not being treated according to the international laws for prisoners of war, because the US has not officially declared war, they only give the name of war on terror. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,(UDHR) Articles 6 and 10, which respectively state that “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law” and that “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him”. Thus, the American government is violating two of the most fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, these are not the only two rights being violated at Guantanamo. It has become clear in the past few years, that the United States has been using ‘interrogation techniques’ on the prisoners that resemble torture. In fact, a United Nations report recently stated that the prisoners were forced to endure cruel and degrading treatment, even to the point of death. Several autopsies performed on the bodies of Guantanamo bay prisoners have confirmed homicide. The International Red Cross report on Guantanamo Bay revealed that the prisoners exhibited signs of sleep deprivation and this same report stated that there were several signs of physical abuse. A witness even reported the slamming of prisoner’s heads against the wall. It is needless to say that this is a violation of fundamental human rights. The current president of the United States, Obama, has made efforts to close this prison due to the highly questionable practices (torture) that prisoners were being submitted to but there is still no certainty as to whether or not this will indeed occur. All of the torture, both mental and physical, that occur at Guantanamo bay is a terrible experience for any adult. However, for children, this torture is magnified. Three children, aged between 13 and 15, have in the past been detained at Guantanamo Bay for alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Although these children were kept in different conditions than the rest of the prisoners at the camp, they were still held in detention with no proper trial or access to a lawyer and with no complete understanding of their situation. One example of this situation is young Canadian Omar Khadr who was incarcerated in the prison at age 15 for supposedly killing an American soldier in Iraq, however charges were never pressed and he has not yet appeared before a Judge, he also claims to have been tortured during his stay. The Canadian government has made several unsuccessful efforts to repatriate him but now at the age of 21 Khadr remains behind bars. Some of the children were eventually evacuated from Guantanamo on the basis that they had provided essential information, cooperated with the interrogators and that they were forced into the terrorist activity. General Miller, leader of operations at Guantanamo also stated that their age was taken into account during their stay at the center. Despite the fact that these children maintained some level of dignity during their imprisonment, it does not change the fact that they did have several of their fundamental human rights violated.
Recently it was reported in the media that a disgusting and highly reprehensible 40-second clip showed four men in US combat gear standing over three corpses of Afghan fighters with their genitals exposed as they relieve themselves. The men can be heard joking ‘Have a great day, buddy’, ‘Golden like a shower’ and ‘Yeahhhh!’ as they groan with relief whilst urinating. It has sparked anger from Afghans, with top negotiator from President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council Arsala Rahmani, saying it will have a ‘very, very bad impact on peace efforts’ The film is likely to spark a huge diplomatic row between Washington and Kabul and rekindle memories of the abuse meted out by American troops at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan described the acts as ‘highly reprehensible and disgusting’ ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings said: ‘The behaviour depicted in this video is reprehensible and is not in keeping with the values of U.S. Armed Forces.’ (Internet)
With all the above human rights violations and many more not recounted in the present article it is shocking to observe the manner in which the duplicitous Americans possess the guts or the moral right to accuse others of human rights violations. Who gave these wrongdoers the right to police the world? There is a saying the healer should heal himself first before healing others. The proverb quoted at the outset is relevant to the situation of the Americans attempting to correct the human rights violations in the world, while they themselves are committing greater violations than others. The Americans seem to be using various strategies to bring all other sovereign nations in the world, who do not toe their line to kneel before them using human rights violations or nuclear weapons as excuses. It is time that all the nations in the world unite to stop the US from harassing other nations in the world. Sri Lanka is a peaceful nation and the Sri Lankans certainly do not wish other nations however powerful they may be to interfere in the sovereignty of our nation as the Sri Lankan people are quite capable of settling their own disputes among themselves.