Monday, May 20, 2024

US re-joining UNHRC: American attitude towards terrorism and human rights

‘The US returns to UNHRC, ahead of 46th session’ was a leading news item in The Island of 10.02.2021.

The US of A does what it needs to do, to serve its cause as best as possible, at any given time.

When being with the UNHRC was not convenient, it left the organization. The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, did not mince her words, announcing the decision, calling the council a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation”. . Now the time has come for the US of A to rejoin the UNHRC to propagate its international agenda!

It would be worthwhile at this juncture for us to remind ourselves of how the US of A behaves when it comes to terrorism and human rights.

The response of the US of A to the terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers in 2001 was the PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty – uniting and strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. It is well documented that multiple violations of human rights such as water boarding, physical torture, sexual abuse, to name a few, have been committed by US troops against suspects of terrorism (Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse (https://enwikipediaorg/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse ). Under the PATRIOT act, all these violations were deemed ‘acceptable’. For example, The Geneva Convention prohibits prisoners’ rights being abused. However, with the use of the PATRIOT act, the term prisoner was not used. Prisoners were referred to as ‘enemy combatants’ (Enemy combatants. https://wwwhumanrightsfirstorg/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Enemy%20Combatantspdf ). Therefore the Geneva Convention rules did not apply. The ‘enemy combatants’ were ‘tortured’, kept in custody indeterminately without been given legal representation, the hearing of their cases was postponed indefinitely etc…. Furthermore, when these enemy combatants, who were imprisoned indeterminately, committed suicide out of sheer desperation their deaths were not investigated as suicides in custody but were called ‘manipulative self-injurious behaviour’ (Ratner M. America’s Disappreared Detainees, Secret Imprisonment and the ‘War on Terror’) and as an ‘act of asymmetric warfare’ committed against America.

The other legal manipulation that the US of A employed was to do with sovereignty – the deniability of its actions as a sovereign country. For example, if one takes the Guantanamo Bay Naval Camp, one of the sites where abuse of ‘prisoners’took place, the camp was not based on American soil. Therefore on the one hand, the US of A proclaimed that none of these so called atrocities carried out against ‘enemy combatants’ was on American soil where the sovereignty, rules and regulations of the country apply; therefore no American laws as such were broken. At the same time since these ‘atrocities’ were not carried out on American soil, the normal rules and regulations of the US of A did not apply either. A win win situation whatever way you looked at it!

It is because of this ‘clever legal manipulations’ that at no point during this period were George W. Bush (President), Donald Rumsfeld (Defence Secretary), George Tenet (CIA director), John Ashcroft (Attorney General)- all whom were well aware of what was happening – were ever asked to account for these atrocities that were being carried out (https://wwwhrworg/report/2011/07/12/getting-away-torture/bush-administration-and-mistreatment-detainees).

As to the US of A approach to human rights; all one has to do, is to look at the ‘birth’ of the US of A. The declaration of Independence in its second paragraph states that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This was at a time when slavery still flourished in America. Freedom for the slaves did not matter. There were no qualms in the signing of the declaration of independence with 41 out of the 56 who signed the declaration of independence owning slaves! (Slave owners among those who signed the declration of independence. http://wwwmrheintzcom/how-many-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-owned-slaveshtml.) So how was the reality of these “self- evident truths” resolved? The answer lies in the wording in the final paragraph where the newborn US of A state their premise of separation – “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;”

Very elegant. For everyone knows that, what gives context to a land is its occupants and one cannot constitute free and independent states from slaves that are neither free nor independent. Therefore this issue of freedom, independence, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the intentions of the declaration, do not apply to slaves; just the free men who represent the US of A.

The UNHRC should be ashamed to take guidance from such a nation. I would like to ask the Tamil diaspora and our own Tamil politicians who are supposed to represent the rights of the Tamil people in this country, by standing with the UNHRC and the US of A on this matter, are you acknowledging that this is the kind of justice you seek?

Dr. Sumedha S. Amarasekara

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