What We Need To Know About The US’ Long History Of Human Rights Violations

The US’ championing of human rights has always been questionable and a matter of doubt. One only needs to look back at the last 200 years of its history to understand this. And as Karl Marx once said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” And this is exactly what’s happened this time too!

Now, it’s no secret that America wants to rule the world by dominating over the sectors of oil, defence, information to show off its superpower status. Recently, it resigned from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“The United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council citing chronic bias against Israel,” the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Tuesday.

The US claims to be one of the greatest advocates of human rights in the world. In that context, the sudden decision understandably shocked. But, I wasn’t one of these people as I have closely followed the nation’s  history and its current predicament.

By making Israel an issue, no body had thought that the US would go to such an extent. The US says that the institution of the UN isn’t based on trust. Rather, it says that the UN is biased and follows double standards. However, I don’t think that the image of the UNHRC has faded at all, as the people in the world do seem to be aware of the US’ real intentions are. So, I don’t think that their withdrawal will have any effect on the credibility of the UNHRC. Quite laughably, the US says that the council has given space to countries which don’t obey human right policies (ironical, isn’t it?).

A few days earlier, the council had strongly criticised Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents (especially mothers) at the US-Mexico border. Due to this, they got angry and blamed the UNHRC for its supposed hypocrisy and double standards. In order to back up their stance, they conveniently highlighted the Israel issue. According to the US, the UNHRC suffers from political prejudices and also ignores countries which are violating human rights ,while Israel is deliberately being targeted. But this American rhetoric holds no water. After all, the world has been watching how long Israel has been committing massacres in Palestine and Gaza.

This isn’t the first time either that the US has shocked the world. Trump had also made the decision to walk out of the Paris Climate Accord. He had also belittled and dismissed the nation’s relations with Iran.

Now, the purpose of the UNHRC is to stop human rights violations in the world. The council report from the previous year says that a significant number of countries have perpetrated crimes against human right activists – and some of them were members of the council. Since then, the questions and doubts about the institution have started to rise. In some Human Rights Watch reports, there were allegations of human right violations in countries like Venezuela, Rwanda and China. All these countries are also members of the Human Rights Council.

But what about the US? History is witness to their oppression of prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay prison – and how these prisoners were ‘stigmatised’ in the name of humanity. Whatever happened to prisoners in Iraq’s jails – was that not a violation of human rights too? The truth is that America should ideally be standing in the court for issues related to human rights. But Trump’s latest decision will only be considered as a move to weaken the UN.

US soldiers bury Native American corpses in a mass grave following the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, 1891. (Library of Congress)

 

16th century illustration of Nahua Native Americans suffering from smallpox. (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1763, for example, a particularly serious uprising of native Americans threatened British garrisons in Pennsylvania. The settlers distributed contaminated blankets to Native Americans, and soon enough smallpox began to spread. In 1784, a British traveler to the US noted that “White Americans have the most rancorous antipathy to the whole race of Indians; and nothing is more common than to hear them talk of extirpating them totally from the face of the earth, men, women, and children.”

“Louisiana Indians Walking Along a Bayou” by Alfred Boisseau (1847). Choctaw Native Americans, like those depicted here, were among those forced from their lands starting in the 1830s. (Wikimedia Commons)

Furthermore, according to an article“In 1924, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which gave Native Americans a “dual citizenship,” meaning that they were citizens of both their sovereign native land as well as the United States. Still, Native Americans did not gain full voting rights until 1965, and it wasn’t until 1968, when the Indian Civil Rights Act passed, that Native Americans gained the right to free speech, the right to a jury, and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.”

This is just a glimpse into the human rights violations the US has perpetrated till date. Only time will tell how many times history will repeat itself there.

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