The key to being taken seriously in Washington is to condemn other countries for their failures, crimes, and shortcomings and to praise the United States of America. One should never entertain the notion that the U.S. should be condemned for human rights abuses on the world stage.
At least, that’s what the rhetoric leads you to believe. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) frequently refers to the United States as “the greatest nation the world has ever known,” before he unleashes a diatribe on the threats to freedom and individual rights under authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, or Venezuela. That’s pretty standard.
Human Rights Watch differs with that worldview. In a press release today, it notes that the U.S. is scheduled to appear this week before the United Nations Human Rights Committee “for a periodic review of its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a core international human rights treaty that the US ratified in 1992.”
The surveillance system revealed to the world by Edward Snowden, Human Rights Watch argues, “violate[s] fundamental civil and political rights.”
“The mass communications surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden demonstrates a shocking disregard by the US for the privacy rights of both those inside the country and those abroad,” said Andrea Prasow, senior national security counsel and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “The US review is the perfect time for the Human Rights Committee to make clear that mass communications surveillance, whether against a country’s own citizens or another country’s, violates basic rights.”
But it’s not just on surveillance where the U.S. fails to comply with international standards. A short list from Human Rights Watch is as follows:
- The US has failed to fully repudiate abusive counterterrorism policies developed after September 11, 2001. In particular, this includes indefinite detention at Guantanamo and the drone war.
- The US fails to protect children by treating many as adults in the criminal justice system.
- The US supports arbitrary and excessive sentencing and detention policies that do not take into account a person’s individual circumstances.
- The US ignores the consequences of discriminatory state and federal laws, policies, and practices. This refers specifically to the “profound racial disparities” found in the execution of the drug war.
“The US holds itself out as a leader on civil and political rights, but its record is rife with failings and contradictions,” Prasow says. “The US still has a long way to go before its practice meets its rhetoric.”
Somebody tell Marco Rubio.