WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former president Jimmy Carter warned Monday that the United States is losing its moral authority on human rights by engaging in targeted assassinations and other widespread rights abuses.
Writing in The New York Times, Carter charged that US counterterrorism police was in violation of 10 of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended,” he said.
Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work in resolving conflicts since leaving office in 1980, is credited with having made human rights a central theme of US foreign policy.
But in his opinion piece, entitled “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” the former president warned that the United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.
“At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he wrote.
“But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”
Among the abuses Carter cited were drone attacks that kill civilians, targeted assassinations of American citizens, powers to indefinitely detain terror suspects, the use of torture to obtain confessions and privacy violations through warrantless wiretapping and electronic data mining.
“This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public.
“As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues,” Carter said.
“While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past,” he said.
Carter was particularly scathing about the campaign of drone attacks on suspected Al-Qaeda operatives, begun under the administration of George W. Bush and intensified since President Barack Obama took office.
“Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable,” he wrote.
“After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone.
“We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.”
Citing top military and intelligence officials, Carter said the escalation of drone attacks has “turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organisations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.”