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Opinion| Politicising human rights in US

The US claims to be founded on human rights and defines itself as a defender of human rights around the world.


The US claims to be founded on human rights and defines itself as a defender of human rights around the world.

Accordingly, it used to issue annual reports on human rights in other countries, based mainly on analysing the internal political conditions of these countries in line with US strategic interests, and on gathering rumours and insinuations as well.

In the midst of this, the US turned a blind eye to its own widespread and systematic violations of human rights. It even denies the fact that in recent years, and particularly since 2018, its human rights situation has deteriorated to the point of being subject to widespread criticism.

This is the truth revealed by many recent reports and studies, and also evidenced by the statements of its politicians, which show the US’ double standards concerning human rights issues. Human rights are considered a political tool to maintain US hegemony.  

Child poverty, for example, is a shocking problem in the US. According to statistics, about 12.8 million children in the country live in poverty, while there are a total of 3.5 million poor children under the age of five, including 1.6 million children who live in extreme poverty.

These statistics were confirmed by a Children’s Defense Fund report, which said, “No child should be concerned about where his next meal will come, or whether he will have a place to sleep every night in the richest nation on the planet.”

It is worth mentioning here that the US one of three countries, along with Somalia and South Sudan, that has not signed the UN’s statement on the rights of the child, in addition to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Disabled and others. These are considered a series of basic international agreements concerning human rights.

Poverty among the elderly is also one of the most important issues related to human rights and cannot be ignored in a country like the US. One in 12 elderly people does not have enough food, while nearly 40% of the middle class in America live on the brink of poverty by the time they reach the age of 65.

In fact, the US is currently the only developed country with millions of hungry people. There were 39.7 million people in poverty in the US, according to figures released by the US Census Bureau in 2018, and more than half a million Americans lack permanent shelter. There were also 65 million adults who chose not to seek treatment for a medical problem because of the cost.

Moreover, the US government’s treatment of immigrants has become increasingly cruel and inhumane. The “zero-tolerance” policy has led to many children being separated from their families. US immigration authorities have separated more than 5,400 children from their parents at the Mexican border since July 2017.

NBC News reported that, in 2019, at least seven children, who came to the US looking for shelter and safety, died in custody or after being detained by federal immigration agencies at the border.

The US also has the worst gun violence record in the world, with 415 mass killings recorded during 2019, meaning that more than one mass killing occurred every day of that year.

In total, 39,052 people died in gun-related violence in the US in 2019. According to a November 2019 report published on the American Progress Center website, one person is killed in a gun-related crime in the US every 15 minutes.

USA Today noted that these statistics appear to show the era of indiscriminate firing. This is in addition to frequent shootings and brutal abuse by police officers against African-Americans. African American adults are 5.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than white adults.

The violation of privacy and internet surveillance has also become common practice in the US. The electronic spying programme, Prism, which is employed without a warrant, works all the time, checking all emails, Facebook, Google chats, Skype chats, and similar applications.

Freedom of the press has also become just a false slogan. According to a 2018 report published by the international non-governmental organization, ARTICLE 19, the press environment in the US has continued to deteriorate.

Journalists are occasionally attacked, searched, arrested, and intercepted at the border, and prevented from publishing public information. Frequently, the US government has publicly and forcefully accused the media and journalists of “fabricating news” to create an intimidating and hostile environment.

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, noted that the threats to press freedom in the US have increased alarmingly in recent years. On 19 January 2018, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that the US arrested 34 journalists in 2017, nine of whom faced criminal charges. A total of 15 saw their equipment confiscated, while 44 journalists were subjected to personal attacks.

Despite all these shameful facts and flagrant violations, the US still claims to be one of the greatest defenders of human rights. However, it is a clear fact to everyone that the US was the first to politicise human rights to serve its interests, especially in the Middle East.

By Dr Marwa El-Shinawy, PhD in American Theatre, and member of the Higher Committee for the Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre (CIFCET)

Topics: human rights USA

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