A look at the human rights situation in the US reveals that its government, which calls itself the “guardian of human rights”, is failing to uphold human rights even in its own country, applying a double standard in this regard.
And there are numerous examples of this. In particular, acts of gun violence that pose a serious threat to the country’s population. On city streets, in grocery shops, fast food restaurants and churches, at celebrations and funerals, in schools, the shooting continues uninterrupted. By almost any measure, 2021 was already a record year, with an average of 54 deaths a day, 14 more than in the previous six years.
The number of hate crimes has reached a new high and is rising by 15-20% annually, according to an FBI report. Crimes of racial discrimination accounted for 60% of all crimes in this category, with more than half of such crimes committed against African Americans. There has been an increase in religious intolerance and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Internet surveillance is now a common practice. The US government’s secret information gathering program, PRISM, operates 24/7, intercepting emails, Facebook messages, Google chats, Skype calls, etc.
The media freedom situation in the United States, to which Washington is allegedly committed, remains highly ambiguous, in fact sliding towards total degradation. In recent years, for example, there has been a shift away from the US authorities’ domestic compliance with their international legal obligations to protect freedom of expression, respect pluralism and many other parameters. The situation is further aggravated by the political crisis, which leads to citizens’ rights to access to information being violated by large private corporations operating in the United States, in particular those controlling social media; they refuse to align their operations even with US regulations, highlighting the US inability or unwillingness to bring their actions in line with the law. In fact, this deplorable state of free speech is the result of an intensified internecine struggle of American political elites. In this struggle, the parties use obvious censorship, resulting in flagrant violations of the US constitution and US international obligations.
The report, previously posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, states that the US continues to grossly violate human rights both at home and abroad, including through unlawful unilateral coercive measures (sanctions). The most egregious example of this is the embargo imposed and maintained (despite numerous UN General Assembly resolutions) on Cuba. In 2021, the UN General Assembly called for the 29th time for the US to end the embargo on Cuba. Such a resolution has been voted on and approved by the international community every year since 1992, but the United States has blatantly ignored public opinion.
The situation of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, which is now 20 years old, also remains depressing. The first prisoners were admitted there four months after the September 11 attacks. As a result of US military action under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), hundreds of Muslims were detained without charge and transferred to this prison as early as January 2002. But innocent people have also been imprisoned there, such as Yemeni Mansour Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi, who was incarcerated for 14 years because the US authorities suspected him of involvement with Al-Qaeda (banned in the Russian Federation). But after a thorough check, he still managed to recover his freedom.
With this Guantanamo Bay prison, Washington has opened and still writes one of the darkest chapters of its disgraceful human rights policy. US taxpayers spend at least $540 million a year to maintain the Guantanamo Bay prison, which amounts to about $13 million a year per prisoner. However, many US citizens know little about the systematic violations that the US military has committed against the 780 prisoners at the prison, as Washington does not publicly disclose details of the meetings of the Guantanamo military commissions, and the court often withholds information from lawyers and the accused themselves. The situation is aggravated by the fact that only people who have received permission from the Pentagon can visit this prison. Even journalists need special permission to be able to observe the trial either from the nearby US military base or in the Guantanamo Bay prison itself behind soundproof glass with sound delay.
Today there are only 39 of the 780 prisoners left in that prison, but violations of prisoners’ rights continue there. For example, 27 of the remaining prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison have been detained for more than a decade without charge. Many prisoners have developed health problems as a result of torture. Nine prisoners died in this prison, and it is alleged that three men were tortured to death or died of negligence.
Despite Joe Biden’s promises to close the prison, he unfortunately only allowed the Pentagon to share the news that five more of the remaining 39 prisoners were being transferred elsewhere. However, the Pentagon has not yet given an exact date for this event. At the same time, trials against prisoners have hardly moved forward. For example, Khalid Sheikh, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was charged 10 years ago, but his criminal case has not yet begun. As the German newspaper Das Erste notes, the problem is that he and the other accused have been tortured by the CIA for years. However, the legal experts are convinced that in a regular US court they have a good chance of having the proceedings against them stopped because the authorities have committed the most serious violations.
A new courtroom and housing complex for guards is now under construction at Guantanamo, so at the moment there is no indication that the current White House staff will close the prison. President Joe Biden, being able to get it over with, is in no hurry to deal with the problem. Bold steps are needed to solve it, but the presidential administration is in no hurry to influence Congress, which is divided over the closure of the prison. While Biden should formally apologize and reimburse the people who were brutalized by the US at the Guantanamo Bay prison, he is unwilling to take such steps, especially in the face of an already unprecedented decline in his ratings, as recent polls show.
It has now become obvious to all that, to prove Washington’s true intentions to secure human rights at home, it first needs to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. In addition, it should cancel the large-scale surveillance programs by US intelligence agencies on their own and foreign nationals, end extrajudicial killings and executions, take immediate action against racial discrimination and violence, eliminate police brutality, and bring order to the penitentiary system. It is also necessary to halt trafficking of children under the guise of adoption, to remedy the situation regarding the rights of migrants, to stop kidnappings around the world, to introduce a death penalty moratorium, and to stop violating international humanitarian law. This and, in particular, the need to implement the UN recommendations on human rights, has been repeatedly demanded of the US by Russia, China and a number of other states.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.