China, Belarus accuse United States of double standards

China and Belarus, two of the world’s more notorious human rights violators, are claiming that the United States is applying a double standard in its insistence on respect for human rights.

China says that the annual State Department report on human rights, released last Friday, “turn[s] a blind eye to its own terrible human rights situation.”

The violations that China has identified in the USA include:

  • Eroding civil liberties and privacy rights — “In the United States, the violation of citizens’ civil and political rights by the government is severe. Citizen’ s privacy has been undermined. According to figures released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in September 2010, more than 6,600 travelers had been subject to electronic device searches between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, nearly half of them American citizens.”
  • Police brutality — “According to a report of Associated Press on October 14, 2010, the New York Police Department (NYPD) paid about 964 million U.S. dollars to resolve claims against its officers over the past decade. Among them was a case that an unarmed man was killed in a 50-bullet police shooting on his wedding day. The three police officers were acquitted of manslaughter and the NYDP simply settled the case with money (China Press, October 15, 2010). “
  • Incarceration rates — “The United States has always called itself ‘land of freedom,’ but the number of inmates in the country is the world’ s largest. According to a report released by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project in 2008, one in every 100 adults in the U.S. are in jail and the figure was one in every 400 in 1970.”
  • Racial inequality — “Minorities do not enjoy the same political status as white people. The New York city’s non-Hispanic white population is 35 percent, while more than 70 percent of the senior jobs are held by whites. Since winning a third term in November 2009, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced a parade of major appointments: bringing aboard three new deputy mayors and six commissioners. All nine are white. (The New York Times, June 29, 2010).”
  • The rights of children — “Children’ s physical and mental health is not ensured. More than 93,000 children are currently incarcerated in the United States, and between 75 and 93 percent of children have experienced at least one traumatic experience, including sexual abuse and neglect.”

The United States has taken up the issue of human rights as “a political instrument to defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests,” the report said (full text here). The U.S. releases “the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices year after year to accuse and blame other countries for their human rights practices,” China said, accusing the United States of politically motivated hypocrisy.

Belarus is taking a similar tract against U.S. efforts in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to force the country that Condi Rice once referred to as “Europe’s last dictatorship” to submit to an investigation into human rights abuses that allegedly took place in response to demonstrations against the results of the December 19 presidential election, which international observers assessed as fraudulent.

Fourteen countries — the Czech Republic, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States — have invoked Paragraph 12 of the 1991 Document of the Moscow Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, which provides for the establishment of fact-finding rapporteurs to investigate the human rights situation in OSCE member states.

Specifically, Paragraph 12 states that

If a participating State considers that a particularly serious threat to the fulfilment of the provisions of the CSCE human dimension has arisen in another participating State, it may, with the support of at least nine other participating States, engage the procedure set forth in paragraph 10.

Belarus, naturally, has categorically rejected the invoking of this mechanism. The country’s ambassador to the OSCE stated on April 7 at the OSCE Permanent Council that “there are no objective grounds” for its invocation.

“First of all,” Belarus said,

the attempt to portray Belarus as a particular case of non-compliance with commitments is clearly of a biased and contrived nature. There is no threat to the fulfilment of OSCE commitments in Belarus, and much less a ‘particularly serious’ one. The situation in the country is stable, and there are no inter-ethnic or interreligious conflicts. The Republic of Belarus takes a responsible approach to the implementation of its international commitments, including those in the human dimension of the OSCE.

Belarus went further in its attacks on the motivations of the 14 countries that have initiated the effort to investigate Belarus’s human rights record:

The initiators of the Moscow Mechanism are to all practical purposes openly sending a clear signal to the entire OSCE. They want to manipulate the Organization for their own ends and will stop at nothing in their intentions. They are pursuing goals that have nothing to do with the human dimension or the OSCE in general. What is more, these goals contravene the spirit and fundamental principles of our Organization, which spurns the use of pressure and unilateral approaches.

In this way, the initiators are guided not by principles but by their own group interests.

While it certainly appears that Belarus engaged in systematic human rights violations in response to post-election demonstrations that turned violent in December, it is difficult to argue that in practice, the same standard is being applied to all members of the OSCE. There have been no rapporteurs appointed to investigate abuses committed at demonstrations in the U.S. in recent years, for example the systematic repression of demonstrators and journalists at the Republican National Convention in 2008:

The same can be said of China’s response to the U.S. human rights report. While China criticizing the U.S. on human rights is undoubtedly a case of the pot calling the kettle black, until the U.S. cleans up its own human rights problems — many of which have been correctly identified by China — it is really in no position to pressure other countries on their situations.

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Campaigning for a United States in compliance with its international obligations. Follow on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/compliancecamp Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/compliancecamp Comments, article submissions or news leads are welcome at compliancecampaign [at] gmail.com.

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