Thursday, February 08, 2007

derechos humanos en EEUU: desaparecidos

The US government continues its determined march away from international human rights standards. The Washington Post reports today (via Andrew Sullivan):

Representatives from 57 countries on Tuesday signed a long-negotiated treaty prohibiting governments from holding people in secret detention. The United States declined to endorse the document, saying its text did not meet U.S. expectations.

Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said the treaty was "a message to all modern-day authorities committed to the fight against terrorism" that some practices are "not acceptable."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to comment, except to say that the United States helped draft the treaty but that the final wording "did not meet our expectations."

The Associated Press reported that McCormack declined to comment on whether the U.S. stance was influenced by the Bush administration's policy of sending terrorism suspects to CIA-run prisons overseas, which President Bush acknowledged in September.

. . .

The convention defines forced disappearance as the arrest, detention or kidnapping of a person by state agents or affiliates and subsequent denials about the detention or location of the individual.

The treaty, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December, has been pushed for nearly a quarter-century by rights groups and the families of individuals who have disappeared at the hands of various governments. It also addresses the international debate over the rights of terrorism suspects.

This convention is a long overdue response to the use of forced disappearances as a tool of political repression pioneered on a large scale by Chile and Argentina in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The US can’t sign the treaty because we’ve been holding people in secret prisons around the world and doing what exactly to them, we don’t know—torture, murder, who knows—we may never know all the details. This is aside from the documented cases of torture and murder in non-secret prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is aside from the near-complete denial of human rights to prisoners held in Guantanamo.

When I interned at a human rights organization in Central America in the summer of 2002, I took complaints of US human rights abuses with a big pile of salt. Reports of abuses coming out of Guantanamo were still sketchy, or at least I didn’t pay much attention to them. After all, hadn’t Americans helped invent modern human rights law at Nuremberg and tirelessly defended and promoted human rights in the decades since? The real bad guys were the paramilitary groups committing massacres in the mountains, or vigilantes knocking off street kids throughout Latin America; any focus on the US was a distraction from more pressing issues. That’s what I thought five years ago. I don’t think that anymore.

The icing on the cake from today’s Post story:

At a separate gathering, a non-binding accord banning the use of child soldiers was signed here Tuesday by representatives of 58 countries, including African nations that have been harshly criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups for arming children. The United States did not participate, saying that it objected to some of the wording of the documents but that it remained committed to its treaty obligations on the issue.


Our government won’t sign a non-binding accord banning the use of child soldiers? Is there a non-laughable (in a laughing through your tears kind of way) justification for this?


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