America’s 2023 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Who Policies the USA?

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On 22nd April, 2024, the US Congress with a fore note from the Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, issued the 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for all other countries that are on earth, except itself. It has been a practice it has committed itself into fulfilling since 1977 and not so much can be said as having started with bad intentions. In deed, human rights are a concern supposed to keep every person (individual or artificial) on high attention to either advance, protect or preserve. It’s therefore a commendable practice thus far. Many countries across the globe have its citizens suffering at hands of human rights violators in all forms. Some of these are out of territorial breaches, while others are internally castigated by kinsmen and kinswomen whose jobs it should be to do better. Lives still get lost for example, in many African, Latin America, and the Middle East at hands of both internal and external perpetrators. In unison with the subject reports, this is wrong, and should never be normalized as practice anywhere.

The forewords by Antony Blinken were interesting, especially how they described Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine, versus the description of Israel’s actions in Palestine. Interesting still, the language used to condemn practices by the People’s Republic of China. But while on a look out of a balanced analysis of the report, of all the countries as noted, the US could not bring forth a report on itself and how it’s ‘respecting’ human rights both internally and abroad. So, who polices the US foreign policies? It remains an unsolved question for many years despite many dissenters pointing it out, that while it’s commendable to make focus of other world key players regarding human rights practices, the watch should equally be made on the US, by itself and other state and non-state actors. As noted in the reports’ forewords, it points to major monitoring on states from whom US aid is supplied. That shouldn’t be passed off as a conflicting situation for the recipients, and therefore a compromise on taking equal watch on the donor.

As noted in the report, it coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and at its inception, Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the authors of the UDHR noted, “The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities.” It is an indictment on everyone to take center attention. The US as it did at the time of inception of the UDHR, committed to preserving human rights especially abroad but 2023 was quite an interesting year regarding the US foreign policies and it remains a non shocking scenario that the US couldn’t publish a similar report on itself and its activities. Rather, as many years before, any such statements on global state of affairs come as justification for their actions rather than self condemnation.

2023 was an equally busy year for the US especially in the middle east, and while the Israel-Palestine and Ukraine-Russia conflicts steal the attention for US actions, in similar measure as it maintained focus on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, and consequential withdraw of funding, Cuba’s regime actions, Nicaragua’s government crackdown on dissent, Russia territorial breach on Ukraine’s border, and much more, the US had a run on Iraq and Syria. For many years now, the middle east has been a military play ground for the US. Many countries have consistently condemned the US involvement in the region’s politics citing instigation of more incitement. Baghdad condemned the strikes by the US on its territory which occasioned deaths and wounding of Iraqi citizens.

Of these attacks in the region since October 7, 2023 since the Israel-Hamas war peaked, there have been reported more than 66 separate attacks in the region. This comes off as though it’s the US so much concerned about stability of the region, using war to being more war. The attacks have been gazetted as warranted and even with the wanton killing of numerous civilians in the region by the US in 2023, it didn’t call for equal urgency to issue a report on its own human rights violations. Much as there are numerous world actors that have consistently showed concern and more especially with the players with valuable commercial interests in the area, not many are willing to raise a finger at the self appointed global police. This happens at a time when the United Nations, a body supposed to be impartial has been spotlighted as running selective interests to the West bloc.

As of April 2024, the US faces internal concerns regarding respecting the freedoms of expression and association that are guaranteed by the first amendment of the country’s constitution. Over 200 students across major Universities have been arrested and more crackdowns are still ongoing on the students protesting Israel’s war actions in Palestine. From the Northeastern University in Boston, to Yale, Columbia, Southern California, and more Universities joining the protests against the ongoing war, many peaceful protestors have been arrested and charged with inciting violence, vandalism, and criminal trespass, accusations many have criticized as unfounded, embarrassing to the national image, and illegal. But just as Anthony Blinken quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, human rights are a concern for all, and it’s only fair that in 2024 and years to come, similar documentation on both triumphs and condemnation be issued against the US by the US as it does annually for other global actors.

Alan Collins Mpewo is a Senior Research Fellow, Development Watch Centre.


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