Human rights blackout

Ed Pilkington at the Guardian reports a very bad thing:

The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America, in a move that delivers a major blow to vulnerable US communities and sends a dangerous signal to authoritarian regimes around the world.

Quietly and unnoticed, the state department has ceased to respond to official complaints from UN special rapporteurs, the network of independent experts who act as global watchdogs on fundamental issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice. There has been no response to any such formal query since 7 May 2018, with at least 13 requests going unanswered.

Nor has the Trump administration extended any invitation to a UN monitor to visit the US to investigate human rights inside the country since the start of Donald Trump’s term two years ago in January 2017. Two UN experts have made official fact-finding visits under his watch – the special rapporteurs on extreme poverty and privacy – but both were invited initially by Barack Obama, who hosted 16 such visits during his presidency.

Two per year for Obama, zero in two years for Trump. Make America Great Again by not giving a damn about human rights? Is that the idea?

The timing of the break in relations with UN investigators coincides with the publication in June of the official findings of Philip Alston’s visit to the US to research poverty. As UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Alston castigated the Trump administration for aggravating levels of inequality that were already the most glaring in the western world.

Alston’s robust criticism was received badly by Nikki Haley, then US ambassador, who accused him of biased reporting. She hinted that the administration was minded to turn its back on international accountability by saying it was “patently ridiculous” that the UN should focus on America’s internal human rights standards when it could be looking into countries like Burundi.

Burundi. Why Burundi in particular? Could it be because…no, surely not.

It is not known whether the decision to sever cooperation with the UN monitors was directly related to the spat over Alston’s report. But emails seen by the Guardian involving top US state department officials in Geneva show that by July they were rebuffing contact with international agencies on grounds that they were “considering how best to engage with special procedures”, the blanket term for the network of UN special rapporteurs.

Paradoxically, the Trump administration’s decision to shun the UN’s independent watchdogs places the US among a tiny minority of uncooperative states. There are very few countries that resist international oversight from UN special rapporteurs – one of them is North Korea.

Individual UN experts expressed dismay at the US cold shoulder they are now receiving. Alston said the move would set “the most unfortunate precedent as the US has always tried to press other countries to be accountable. This sends a message that you can opt out of routine scrutiny if you don’t like what is being said about your record on human rights.”

Felipe González Morales, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, has twice approached the US government requesting a formal visit to inspect how the country is handling immigration including the crisis at the Mexican border – once in March and then in July. He has yet to receive a reply.

“In the absence of an official visit, we cannot publish a country report to be presented to the UN human rights council,” he said.

This is really appalling and disgusting.

3 Responses to “Human rights blackout”