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Should the US Listen to Criticism of Its Human Rights Record?

Amnesty International's latest report assails the US for its human rights record, and calls for the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

The report says:

As the world's most powerful state, the USA sets the standard for government behaviour globally. With breathtaking legal obfuscation, the US administration has continued its efforts to weaken the absolute prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment. [. . .] These actions have done nothing to further the fight against terrorism and a great deal to damage the USA's prestige and influence abroad.

The international human rights group also calls out China and Russia, as well as the European Union's complicity in the rendition of terror suspects. Recent attacks against Roma encampments in Italy, were also condemned by the group.

In the past, the US State Department has deflected responsibility by accusing Amnesty International of using the United States as “a convenient ideological punching bag." We're still waiting on an official statement regarding the latest report.

Is it a worse when the world's superpower abuses human rights? Is America's moral authority weakened when it is called out by international watch groups? What human rights advancements been made in the 60 years since the adoption Universal Declaration of Human Rights?


ladychaos ladychaos 9 years
Here's a reason to close Gitmo: you claim that trade is illegal with Cuba, yet you're leasing land on their island from their government, and have been doing so since 1902. Sounds hella hypocritical. Its either that or drop the embargo.
stephley stephley 9 years
There has been plenty of outrage over Daniel Pearl and the victims of 9/11. But even many Americans think by this point, the Administration has over-reacted and allowed the U.S. to sink to behavior that we cannot support. The American workers in Iraq willingly place themselves in a war situation. A great deal of that destroyed infrastructure was destroyed by us and therefore, our workers are seen by some as the enemy. It's tragic for their families when they are killed, just as it is tragic for all those Iraqi civilians who have been killed by all sides in this war. But that's different from the U.S. having Pakistani forces arrest a taxi driver and sending him to Guantanamo. What has happened does not justify our setting ourselves up as posse, judge, jury and executioner of anyone we think might intend to do us harm.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
Dave, that's a good point.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I'm referring to the Daniel Pearl (et al), who are "kidnapped" and killed. American workers in Iraq, who are just there (besides making a great wage) to rebuild the infrastructure are routinely targeted. Why is there no outrage about the atrocities that the enemy is doing to our people?
stephley stephley 9 years
Dave, please tell us more about that.
brittanyk brittanyk 9 years
I think we should absolutely listen to Amnesty International. The United States should be setting an example for other countries to follow.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
While I agree that all detainees need to be treated with the utmost respect, I am saddened that there is not outcry for the injustices done to the American detainees in Iraq or Afghanistan. I have a hard time comparing sleep deprivation to murder.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
I said the investigation process needed to change, and the way the detainees were being treated should be changed as well. I simply don't think closing Guantanamo is the answer. I was disagreeing with your "random people" comment. I don't know what else to say on this.
stephley stephley 9 years
So we own a place, how does that give us permission to detain people there? We're detaining people in a number of other countries as well. Just because 9/11 happened here doesn't give us permission to do as we please worldwide. If you would understand completely if their country had been attacked by terrorists would you be okay with Iraqis randomly detaining people? Their country has been attacked and thousands of civilians killed - I'm sure we fit the definition of terrorists to many of them. We've outsourced detaining people (86 percent of the detainees were not captured on the battlefield by US forces, but were captured by the Northern Alliance or Pakistani)so we're not sure that they were doing anything that warranted suspicion or whether they were picked up for some in-country political purpose. We've held a number of people for several years without charging them with anything or giving them access to lawyers so that they could contact family members to vouch for them.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
ok isn't Guantanamo owned by the US? So isn't that why "we" are putting people there, and gosh I don't know this thing that happened on 9/11 that prompted alot of this detaining and investigating. As far as me going to another country and being detained. First of all, I wouldn't be doing anything suspicious to warrant them to question me, however, if for the sake of argument I was detained and had to be investigated, would I like it? No. but I would completely understand it especially if their country had been attacked by terrorists. It's not like the people who are in Guantanamo are there arbitrarily, it's not like authorities prowl around looking for someone who looks like they need to be in Guantanamo. The military go on missions and when they find insurgents or possible terrorists during these missions shouldn't they be detained and questioned?
stephley stephley 9 years
Why do 'we' have to investigate random people? Who gave us that authority? If Iran decided it needed to investigate possible terrorists and started picking up people at airports in certain countries, would that be okay with you? Which countries are allowed to do this and which are not? If France pulled you in until they could determine you weren't a terrorist, would that be okay with you?
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I do see your point’s stiletta true President Lincoln did suspend habeas corpus ( however that was during a civil war in the mid later half of the 19th century. As for the sedition act of 1918 it was clearly unconstitutional and no high court in the land today would support that act today. The U.S. can not move forward while holding onto 19th century world views nor can it afford to move forward while repeating the same mistakes that history has clearly illustrated are the wrong paths to choose. There was a reason why we participated and signed humanitarian treaties post WWII and I highly suggest we revisit those reasons before history records that we had the chance to take a different path but chose to travel down the same road.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
detaining someone because we have to investigate to see if they are involved with terrorist activity is not engaging in any illegal practices. How they were treating some of those detainees, absolutely was. I agree with stiletta, I'm sorry that there might be some innocent people in Guantanamo, but we have to keep them somewhere during the investigation process. And yes that process can be improved I'm sure.
mjane79 mjane79 9 years
As a country, we should not engage in practices against citizens of other countries that we would be against if those countries did it to our citizens. I'm not against the idea of the prison there, i just think that if the US is going to accuse others of human rights abuses and hold itself up as a moral leader, they need to hold themselves accountable. Standards and rules need to be set and followed, with appropriate punishments for not following them.
stephley stephley 9 years
I think the rest of the world is very aware of what extreme measures are required during war - and yet, nations still sign on to treaties regarding conduct of the war, treatment of combatants, treatment of non-combatants, treatment of civilians... and when leaders, officers, soldiers are tried for their actions after the war, many are severely punished despite their claims that they were only doing what was necessary or following orders. "If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government." Dwight Eisenhower and he made it abundantly clear that he meant our government as well as any foreign power.
stiletta stiletta 9 years
In war, we need to take extreme measures. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. During both World Wars there were sedition acts passed of varying degrees. Some were rather shameful (the Japanese in camps, for instance), but I believe they were necessary on the whole. I'm sorry that maybe innocent people are being detained. I truly am. But I am also sorry that 3,000 innocent people were murdered on 9/11. This is what happens during war on both sides of the trenches.
stephley stephley 9 years
War crimes trials have handled the issues involving the special circumstances of war - and they resoundingly say there are ways to behave within legal boundaries during wartime and if you stray beyond the boundries you should and will be punished. There was a study in 2006, using the government’s own documents – 517 Unclassified Summaries of Evidence from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals – which concluded that, according to the government, "86 percent of the detainees were not captured on the battlefield by US forces, but were captured by the Northern Alliance or Pakistani forces, 55 percent were not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the US or its allies, and only 8 percent were alleged to have had any kind of affiliation with al-Qaeda." Let's be generous to the government and say the report overstated-even if you cut the 55% to 28% - that's a lot of people picked up and held for doing nothing. I feel much more afraid of this government than I do of foreign terrorism, yes. A terrorist wants to kill me, I get it. The Bush Administration says it's protecting me yet it lies about getting into war, violates the rights of Americans and others around the world, builds secrety prisons, outsources torture and even death - creating more terrorists.
syako syako 9 years
great discussion ladies and gents :highfive:
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
There is no reason to close Gitmo. The problem isn't with the base, it's with the people contained in the base. The people who we have detained are suspected terrorists, so releasing them isn't an option. IMO, we should provid sensitivity training for those who have been trying to kill us, and once they've passed, send them home.
sarah_bellum sarah_bellum 9 years
Alright, I'll bite. I don't know if all the detainees are members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. They probably all aren't, but it doesn't bring them any closer to fulfilling the requirements to be classified as a POW. "There is reason to believe that many of them are nothing more than unfortunate men who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." Where is the reason to believe all this? You just said yourself that we know very little about the detainees. Is it just that you would rather believe they are benign victims of circumstance or is there actual evidence to justify this statement? I'm curious as to what you meant by your last sentence. By using the term 'phantom terrorists' do you mean that you believe there is no terrorist threat to America? Or did you simply mean that you feel more threatened by this administration than you do by any foreign terror activity?
stephley stephley 9 years
Are all the detainees members of Al Queda or the Taliban? As we know little about most of the people who have been detained, and only a handful have been charged, it's speculation to say they're members of anything. There is reason to believe that many of them are nothing more than unfortunate men who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they haven't been classified as POW's because prisoners of war are not obligated to provide information beyond their "name, rank and serial number" then at least that designation would keep us from trying to torture more out of them - that only seems to end in death and dropped charges any way. I worry far less about al Queda's 'deadly ideology' than I do about an Administration that violates American laws and values in it's pursuit of phantom terrorists.
sarah_bellum sarah_bellum 9 years
My grammar and typing errors are increasing as the night wears on... see you in the morning. ;)
sarah_bellum sarah_bellum 9 years
Sorry. It's late and I only addressed the POW issue in my last post... As for the gathering evidence, war simply does not fit that mold. The normal investigative processes used in U.S. criminal trials – Miranda rights, chain of custody of evidence, etc. is simply impossible when applied to a combat situation (Ross Kemp is a journalist who did an amazing series on the front lines with British soldiers that really helps to demonstrate what goes on. Here's a link to a clip if anyone's interested: Crime is from Mars, warfare is from Venus – the two simply don’t mate. Those who cry for criminal prosecution under the U.S. justice system should read about the nature of war and how justice has been applied over the years – the two systems are simply designed for entirely different scenarios. I think something needs to be done, but I don't have a solution. But if one exists, I doubt that it is as black and white as simply mustering up some charges or releasing the detainees. Just as we aren't running a home for stateless men, we aren't exactly running a home for the harmless dissident or falsely accused.
sarah_bellum sarah_bellum 9 years
"If we can't charge someone with gathering evidence that would hold up in court and won't designate these detainees as prisoners of war and adhere to international rules regarding their treatment then we have no business keeping them in our custody." The POW issue is an interesting one... The Geneva Convention's criteria for POW status are: "(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; [and] (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war." Al Qaeda does not satisfy these conditions. Perhaps Osama bin Laden could be considered "a person responsible for his subordinates," although the cell structure of al Qaeda belies the notion of a chain of command. But in any event, al Qaeda members openly flout the remaining three conditions. Al Qaeda members deliberately attempt to blend into the civilian population - violating the requirement of having a "fixed distinctive sign" and "carrying arms openly." Moreover, they target civilians, which violates the "laws and customs of war." Nevertheless, treating the al Qaeda and Taliban captives as prisoners of war, whether or not they are legally entitled to the status, would be less risky than it may at first appear. So long as al Qaeda and its deadly ideology exists, we cannot say that there has been, in the words of the Geneva Convention, a "cessation of active hostilities," which would entitle the captives to be released. Given the above, the only reason I can think that they haven't been classified as POW's is because prisoners of war are not obligated to provide information beyond their "name, rank and serial number."
stephley stephley 9 years
The claims must be questioned if not totally discounted, because the detainee review process has been so flawed and so closed to public or legal scrutiny. Most reports say there are some cleared detainees that haven't been able to leave Guantanamo because they have no where to go - that number tends to hover around 100. But officials admit that private negotiations between the U.S. and the detainees' home countries often play a more important part than detainee hearings in determining when and if a detainee is released. We're not running a home for stateless men down at Guantanamo; at least one case has been dropped because the defendant was tortured before 'confessing' and there's no doubt we've violated what we would consider the detainees' basic human rights. If we can't charge someone with gathering evidence that would hold up in court and won't designate these detainees as prisoners of war and adhere to international rules regarding their treatment then we have no business keeping them in our custody.
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