Category: Human Rights

Bombshell: UN Human Rights Commission Takes US to Task, Big Time

In a soon-to-be-released report, the United Nations Human Rights Commission criticizes the United States’ record on human rights within its own borders and internationally. As of this writing, the only more-or-less mainstream media outlet to pick up the story is the Guardian. Not one outlet in the United States has picked up the leaked report, which was obtained by Al Jazeera America and released this morning.

Logo of the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Logo of the United Nations Human Rights Committee

Amnesty International’s representative at the UN commented on the report by saying, “The U.S. is adept at demanding human rights change from other governments while failing to meet international standards itself.” The Guardian characterized the report’s assessment of the United States as “withering”.

The harshly critical report lists 20 specific areas of concern:

  1. Racial disparities in the criminal justice system
  2. Racial profiling
  3. Death penalty
  4. Targeted killings using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones)
  5. Gun violence
  6. Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
  7. Legislation prohibiting torture
  8. Non-refoulement (“a principle of international law which forbids the rendering of a true victim of persecution to their persecutor” – Wikipedia)
  9. Trafficking and forced labor
  10. Immigrants
  11. Domestic violence
  12. Corporal punishment
  13. Non-consensual psychiatric treatment
  14. Criminalization of homelessness
  15. Conditions of detention and use of solitary confinement
  16. Detainees at Guantanamo Bay
  17. NSA Surveillance
  18. Juvenile justice and life without parole sentences
  19. Voting rights
  20. Rights of indigenous people

The full unreleased version of the report is included on the Al Jazeera page on which the article appears.

I understand that the fact that Al Jazeera America (AJAM) broke the story causes many Americans to roll their eyes at best and become vitriolic about Islamic news sources at worst, but it’s worth noting that AJAM is clearly dedicated to providing fair and objective reporting of world news from a global, rather than U.S. parochial, perspective. I’ve been studying their coverage for the past two weeks and comparing it to that of CNN, BBC America and the PBS News Hour. I find it to be remarkably objective and refreshingly well produced. Their coverage of the Middle East is, if anything, more balanced and insightful than any other news network.

But in this case, none of that should really matter. The UN is about to release a report clearly critical of the US record on human rights, a report to reveals, at the very least, the hypocrisy of our government in such matters. The fact that no American media outlet has picked up the story is quite telling.

So We Boycott Wal-Mart But Not Amazon?

This piece on Salon.com by Simon Head was an eye-opener for me. As a heavy user of Amazon.com, I’m being forced to reassess whether I want to continue to support these horrific labor practices merely for my own convenience.

amazon_logoHonestly, my jaw dropped. Repeatedly. And it wasn’t just over the unhealthy labor conditions reported in some of the Amazon’s plants. It was the general tenor of constantly accelerating performance requirements and expectations that pushed employees — particularly those over 50 — beyond their ability to perform and then simply tossed them aside like so much human garbage.

It feels to me like it is at least as immoral for me as a pro-labor Lefty to patronize Amazon as it is or would be for me to shop at Wal-Mart. This is really unconscionable behavior, even assuming a certain amount of exaggeration on the part of the reporters cited by Salon.

Has anyone else encountered this? How are you doing with it? I can’t allow this to become part of the new reality in which I participate.

 

Israeli Police Arrest Women for Wearing Prayer Shawls?

Members of the Women of the Wall group pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (Reuters)

Members of the Women of the Wall group pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City (Reuters)

According to numerous news reports this morning, Israeli police yesterday arrested five women who appeared at the sacred Jewish prayer site, Jerusalem’s Western Wall, wearing prayer shawls. Apparently a contingent of 120 women made their monthly prayer visit to the wall but five of them wore prayer shawls. Evidently, the wearing of such apparel is limited by Jewish law to men.

(If  you want to explore the story in more detail, try this link to a Google search.)

I’ve wondered for five decades why the United States gives Israel such special kid-glove treatment despite its frequent bad behavior both with neighbors and with their own citizens. I don’t deny Israel has a right to govern itself as it sees fit. It is a virtual theocracy masquerading as a parliamentary democracy. Many of its laws are religious in nature, as is the one at issue in this story. Israel long ago established a foreign policy of pre-emptive strike and preventive attack. Hardly a quarter goes by in which the country doesn’t do something arbitrary and seemingly capricious, jeopardizing regional and world peace in the process. It has universal conscription.

None of this means we shouldn’t treat Israel as an ally, come to its defense if attacked, support it economically, etc. I just don’t see anything that should make it so special other than a large contingent of people of Jewish faith in the United States who are vociferous in their support of their homeland.

Some have suggested that Israel is vital to U.S. security interests in the Middle East but I fail to see that. I could of course just be missing something. But Israel has no oil, soaks up billions of dollars in military and other aid from the United States, and is a provocateur in a region where U.S. interests are served best by peace.

But whether or not Israel is important to our security, we must re-examine our national policy of standing by while it acts in violation of human rights as it has here. Its behavior in this situation, according to all the reports I read this morning, is akin to that of the Taliban. And you know what we do to those people.