Who has more rights to human rights?
Washington believes that one of the achievements of its propaganda and diplomatic machinery was that after a meeting in Helsinki in 1975, they managed to make the so-called «third basket» which in the main placed emphasis on human rights. Decade after decade, the United States used the «third basket» as an important weapon of foreign policy influence. Tectonic upheavals happened in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 80’s and 90’s.
The twentieth century convinced the Americans of the effectiveness of the chosen instrument… In the end; Washington began to claim almost a monopoly in the field of human rights and the role of final arbiter in determining who is observing them, and who is not. And the more accusations put forward about others, the more hobbled became America`s own practice in this area.
Claims to an absolute right, are absolutely ruined by absolute power. Russia has tried to respond to the constant assaults in this regard, but sluggishly, working on the principle: «You do not touch us, and we will not touch you». And then, finally, it looks like the ice broke.
On October 22, 2012 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation presented the first special report on the human rights situation in the United States, and brought it to be heard in the State Duma. The strength of the document is that it refers to the systemic problems facing American society, and this is all illustrated by convincing examples. The report presented by the Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stressed, «That the treatment of human rights in the U.S. are is far from perfect, and even sometimes resemble something from another era».
Among the most important challenges facing America are growing social inequality, discrimination on racial, ethnic and religious grounds, the practice of indefinite detention without charges, judicial bias, prisons operating outside of the law, torture, the impact of government agencies on court processes, a poor penal system, the denial of freedom of speech, Internet censorship, legalized corruption, lack of electoral rights of citizens, intolerance based on race and ethnicity, the violation of children’s rights, the extraterritorial application of U.S. law, leading to human rights violations in other countries, kidnapping, tracking dissidents, disproportionate use of force against peaceful demonstrators, the use of the death penalty against minors and the mentally ill, etc.
The international legal obligations of the United States, continue to be limited to participation in only three of the nine core human rights agreements, and providing human rights monitoring mechanisms.
The U.S. has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979, the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their families in 1990, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006 and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 2006.
When forced to answer rather sarcastic questions from one of the Russian liberal papers over the fact that previously, say, Russia considered the subject to be an interference in internal affairs, and now, she does it too, Mr. K. Dolgov, Commissioner for Human Rights Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the main architect of the report, said that, “the main idea is that Americans continue to wrongfully position themselves as the absolute authority and unquestioned leader in the field of democracy and human rights.
They are engaged in mentoring and trying to teach others how to build their democracies and ensure human rights. They do it often rudely ignoring the basic international law of the principle of state sovereignty. Often their attempts to take care of human rights in other countries are bordering on outright interference in internal affairs.
Russia also faces this problem. This, in particular, is one of the reasons why the decision was made to wrap up the operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Russia. At the same time, according to the report, the human rights situation for Americans remains very difficult. (1)
It should be recognized that the priority in having the audacity in speaking to America about this and what others «always thought, but were afraid to ask,» still belongs not to Russia, but to China. After many years of the Americans reporting on human rights in China, Beijing promptly submitted its scrupulous and scathing analysis of how the situation is in the US in this sensitive area.
As a result, in the relationship between America and China, this topic is present mainly in propaganda, but is practically nonexistent in inter-state relations. It is enough for some American to raise the subject at any level of negotiations, for him to be immediately handed a huge Chinese tome translated into English of US sins, with a counter offer to talk about it.
And, actually, why not? It acts like a magic cure, and the Americans’ enthusiasm soon evaporates. It is certainly an instructive example.
The first U.S. reaction to the Russian report proceeded along the same scenario. On 23 October at a regular briefing State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland answering a question about the report, said that the text was not known to her, but the appearance of such studies are welcome, as the U.S. is an «open book» seeking to improve its society.
This is commendable, except that she «closed» the report, without even opening it. It is the case, Nuland said, that the United States is open for the world to see. In November, «as always», the OSCE sent an election observer mission, which, for example, in Russia «encountered resistance to their work». (2)
Here we have the question. The State Department believing it basks in the glory of a perfect image of American democracy, «no longer understand the feelings” in their own country. In some US states the OSCE observers are threatened with jail «if they dare to come to the polls».
At a State Duma hearing on human rights in the U.S., an ambassador of this country well known as a theoretician and practitioner of human rights, Michael McFaul was invited. However, he did not attend, and that is very significant. Whilst hosting numerous comments on all issues in his blog and on Twitter, on this subject the Ambassador is silent.
Did he lose his interest? Or did he not expect to hear anything new about the human rights situation in his own country? This suggests that either he is well aware of the existing violations and finds it simply shameful, or he does not want to hear anything about them, and this is hypocritical. The ability not to be able to see the wood for the trees is a characteristic feature of many generations of American politicians.
Doublethink (coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984) has been intrinsic to them since the founding fathers. George Washington, for example, the so called “herald of freedom and democracy», was a planter and slave owner, who kept in the basement of his house a prison with instruments of torture for misbehaving slaves (it has been recently excavated by archaeologists) and sent expeditions to different parts of the country to catch runaway Negroes that belonged to him personally. This duality of American democracy drew the attention of Alexis de Tocqueville.
A number of publications in the U.S. responded to the report in a spirit of «propaganda». Thus, the «Los Angeles Times» says that the «tone, vocabulary and spirit» of the document submitted to the State Duma, «is reminiscent of propaganda attacks of the cold war era».(3)
The newspaper did not even try to refute or dismantle even one given fact or conclusion. But if assessing the publication of the report in Russia on human rights in the U.S. shows a return to the cold war, it turns out that for the U.S. itself that war never ended.
But Fred Weir, the long time correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor in Moscow, believes that the report is «well-documented» and «professionally written». Mainly it is based on U.S. non-governmental and academic sources and the issues raised «are quite familiar to any well-informed Americans». (4)
The Russian are not trying to say something new to America, writes Fred Weir, they want to encourage her to change her point of view and look at Russia without prejudice.
They broaden the debate by pointing out that before lecturing others; the United States should resolve their own numerous problems. In the past, said Weir, the Soviet propaganda machine also tried to use this method, but rather unsuccessfully. Now Moscow’s response is much more ambitious.
The Russians really feel that the American perception of them is far from correct. Also the American correspondent noticed the desire from the Russian side to move the debate «behind closed doors».
And this is an echo of its past approaches which proved to be ineffective. For the White House this move just does not make sense, since the theme of human rights is a tool, not an end policy in itself. It is useless to urge the Americans to give up their decades of proven tools; they can only be confronted by self action.
The Foreign Affairs Report is a worthy and successful example of such action. In pursuing the stated positions, firmness and consistency are important not only in terms of the effective management of information warfare, but also to confirm the equality of rights of states as members of the international community.
For it is impossible to ensure equal respect for human rights in the world, if equal rights are not respected, including freedom of speech, in the countries in which «these people» live.
So you have made a claim? Be so kind as to listen to the reply and counterclaims. Every time, without exceptions. Refusal is the application of inequality, which is also a form of violation of the rights of individuals and the states representing them, the fact is that «all sides must be heard» Audiatur et altera pars is the basic principle of democracy.
(1) «kommersant.ru/online», 29.10.2012
Uncle Sam, you’re wrong!
The fundamental political rights of Americans in today’s society, not only are not exempt from elements of an archaic character, but they have become even more vulnerable, and even more manipulated. Uncle Sam (Uncle Sam is a US image, that personifies the state machine in the eyes of Americans) is increasingly dominating them.
Elections arouse the most criticism. The U.S. president is still not elected by direct popular election, and instead by Electoral College. Many rightly believe this system to be obsolete and undemocratic. With it, in particular, the voice of a resident of Delaware or North Dakota carries mathematically much more weight (measured by the ratio of voters to the number of electors from the state), than the voice of the voters in the larger states, such as California or New York.
Down to this system, three times in the history of the U.S., the President elected has been a candidate with fewer votes than his opponent (the last time was George W. Bush in 2000)… and Gerald Ford was not even elected. At first, he was co-opted by the Republican National Committee in place of thieving Vice President Spiro Agnew, and then automatically took the place of Nixon who departed from his post because of the Watergate scandal.
The Russian CEC Chairman Mr. V. Churov, Russia, was absolutely right when he said: «The election of the President of the United States is not direct, not universal, not equal, and the voting is not in secrecy». (1)
U.S. experts explain the archaic practices by the fact that its main features developed in the late XVIII century, and have not changed much. But it has been a long time since then, and, most importantly, American politicians do not cease to teach others about how they should organize the election process.
The administrative resources in the U.S. are extremely important, as a considerable amount of functions of electoral bodies are legally the responsibility of the state executive power bodies, and the legal regulation of election campaigning by candidates is virtually nonexistent.
It is in the presence of Republican gubernatorial posts 29 against 20 Democrats, including 7 of 9 «swing» states, that many experts explain the «latest breakthrough» for Romney as previously he lagged far behind Obama.
For their part, the Democrats discovered that their voters are more likely to vote early than Republicans. And for the first time in the history of the country, the current President has already cast his ballot before the official date of the election, showing by example. It is recognized that this practice opens the possibility for serious manipulation, for example, in a vote by mail.
Thus, according to one study, in 16 districts in the State of Mississippi in the local elections held in 2011, which involved «early voters», there were more voters than residents themselves that the 2010 Census showed to be of voting age. Democrats are generally better prepared for this form of voting with the support of companies associated with information technology, while Republicans rely mainly on financial corporations.
The U.S. political system as a whole has developed «bi-partyism» that is, the absolute monopoly of two parties which is far from European style multi-party democracy. At the hearings in the State Duma, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Nikonov noted in particular that there are very limited opportunities for small parties in the US to participate in the elections. «The party must be registered in each state, and this procedure is much more complicated than we have branded filters in the election of governors».
In addition, the small parties have no access to the media. Nikonov noted that the number of independent voters in the United States that do not support a Republican or a Democrat is growing. However, it has no effect on the number of independent deputies at local level, or in the U.S. Congress. (2)
According to the organization «Sentencing Project», more than 5.8 million Americans (2.5% of all likely voters) are disenfranchised because of a criminal record. While in general the right to vote is stripped from every 40th American, and every 13th African American (7.7% of the total), and in some states, such as Kentucky, Virginia and Florida, more than 20 % of black Americans are ousted from voting.
According to the Census Bureau, of the 75 million eligible citizens who did not have the right to vote in the presidential election in 2008, 60 million were not able to do so due to lack of registration, which is associated with a lot of cumbersome procedures.
Serious questions surround the access of international observers to monitor the vote. Currently only the states of Missouri, South Dakota and New Mexico, as well as the District of Columbia have laws that allow the access of international observers during the elections. In other regions, the question of the activities of foreign observers is the responsibility of local authorities.
The ODIHR /OSCE mission who have monitored the national elections in the United States recommended from time to time how to solve the problem of the excessive and disproportionate restriction of active suffrage of whole categories of American citizens. Change for the better did not occur.
In response to a desire to expand the number of OSCE observers at the current presidential elections, the Texas authorities threatened them with criminal prosecution.
State Prosecutor Greg Abbott sent Ambassador Daan Everts, Head of the OSCE observer mission to the United States, a letter in which he called his team’s presence in the American electoral districts «legally irrelevant». Abbott banned observers from coming closer than 100 feet to state areas.
Secret control over the population is being enhanced. In February 2011, Obama signed legislation to extend for another 4 years the provisions adopted after the September 11, 2001 «Patriot Act».
It is a section of the law that allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor suspicious persons (even without evidence of their links with terrorist organizations), perform inspection of commercial records and listen to telephone conversations of any number of suspicious subscribers across the whole country, «the roving-warrant».
The current U.S. law, in effect, allows the intelligence community to carry out a total censorship of all electronic communications of foreign and U.S. citizens without a court order.
It also requires telecommunications companies to assist the Government in gathering intelligence about foreign subjects and to keep secret the information gathered by providing immunity from lawsuits relating to both their current and potential cooperation with federal law enforcement agencies in the framework of terrorist surveillance (Terrorist Surveillance Program).
According to the amended law of 1994 «On providing communications companies help to law enforcement agencies» («Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act»), the operating companies are required to ensure the compatibility of their technology with the possibility of special services for electronic surveillance. In the period of 2004 to 2007, the number of emails scanned the U.S. secret services under this law has increased by 3000%.
Currently under consideration in Congress, is the bill «On the exchange and protection of intelligence information about cyber threats» (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act – CISPA), which according to human rights activists, does not limit the possibility of the U.S. government to monitor web browsing of individuals.
Limited freedom of speech. For attacks on journalists covering the action of the movement «Occupy Wall Street», NGO «Reporters without Borders» in January 2012 lowered its rating of the U.S. in its annual global press freedom index by 27 positions at once and put the U.S. into the 47th place (57th with the territories in which Washington exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction).
According to the organization, while covering the protests more than 80 journalists were subjected to excessive use of force by the police. According to an investigation by the Coalition of Independent Lawyers (Protest and Assembly Rights Project), in New York alone from September 2011 to July 2012, at least 18 accredited reporters have been arrested.
In the last four years, a record number of criminal proceedings have been opened in connection with the leak of classified information to the media. In particular, six people have been charged with violation of the law «on espionage», including soldier Bradley Manning who passed information to broadcast network resource «WikiLeaks».
The «WikiLeaks» site was the subject of harassment by the U.S. administration in retaliation for the publication of diplomatic information. Access to the «WikiLeaks» site has repeatedly been blocked by the decision of the District Court and at the request of some senators. The staffs of the White House, the Library of Congress, the Pentagon, State Department and other U.S. agencies are prohibited from entering the «WikiLeaks» site.
According to the latest «Google» report (3) on the availability of company`s services, during the period from July to December 2011, the number of requests for the removal of content received by it from the U.S. government has increased by 103% compared to the previous reporting period.
U.S. law enforcement agencies requested the removal 1.4 thousand video clips that “contain insults» from the video hosting «YouTube’s» site. 6.3 thousand enquiries were made requesting the disclosure of the details of more than 12.2 thousand users of this company. 93% of these requirements were met.
U.S. authorities also require domain name registrars to deny access to foreign websites that violate U.S. law sanctions. In 2008, without notice, and in accordance with the decree of the Ministry of the Treasury, about 80 websites advertising tourist travel to Cuba for Europeans were closed, as Cuba is member of the «black list» of countries with which the Americans are not allowed to do business on the basis of the law of 1917. «Trading with enemy states» (Trading with the enemy Act).
According to a joint study by the National Association of religious broadcasters and the «American Center for Law and Justice» global Internet companies, such as «Apple», «Google», «Yahoo», «Facebook» and «MySpace» actively filter information, in particular, of a religious nature. This is done under the pretext of fighting extremism and intolerance.
As a result it is not easy for the believer to publish their views on the Internet, for example, about the sin of sodomy, lesbianism and other perversions. «Protection against extremism» limits the rights of people that are of a quite traditional sexual orientation (which, they say, are still the majority).
Uncle Sam and the «matrix of justice»
A very special topic in the report by the Russian Foreign Ministry on human rights in the U.S on the partial review of offences committed by the American side, is in the absolutely abhorrent practice of extrajudicial killings abroad.
As part of the «war on terror» Washington has developed highly specific approaches, the application of which has not only massively violated many international legal norms, but killed thousands of innocent people…
There is, for example, the «innovative thinking» concept of just wars, known since ancient times, on the basis of which the so-called «Matrix of justice» has developed. The authorship of this idea is attributed to President Obama’s adviser on counter-terrorism, the Deputy Assistant to the National Security and a CIA veteran, John Brennan.
The «Matrix of justice» is, in fact a hit list, using which the «enemies of America» are to be destroyed without trial on the approval of the President of the United States. The hit list is updated regularly – some have already been consumed, someone else is waiting for their turn.
So far, it has mostly been people from al-Qaeda and related groups, but if you want to, the criteria for the «matrix» can be extended. After all, in addition to already having slaughtered about 3 thousand people or so, the actual number of victims is many times greater than this, or as it is known in the American vernacular, collateral damage.
To avoid «spilling the blood of our boys» the recent plan to implement the» matrix of justice «is performed mainly by drones which can be deployed anywhere in the world.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in the period from 2004 to 2012, with the help of such devices the CIA has made at least 327 strikes in Pakistan.
As a result of which, between 2.5 to 3.2 thousand people died, including 482-852 peaceful Pakistani civilians (175 of them – children). In an air strike on the village of Datta-Khel in March 2011, more than 40 civilians were killed. During similar operations in Yemen 58-149 civilians were killed (24-31 – children), and in Somalia – 11-57 civilians (1-3 children).
Human rights activists have expressed serious concern over the practice of the U.S., noting that; in fact, it is no different from extrajudicial executions which are banned by international law.
In May 2010 the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions F. Alston released a report which questioned the US use of drones in conformity to international humanitarian law and the protection of human rights. (1)
In this particular situation, it is also about the abuse of executive order № 12333 of December 4, 1981 by Ronald Regan, by which U.S. intelligence agencies are prohibited from participating in assassinations. (2)
In September 2011, the «target» of the blow deliberately eliminated an American citizen, the Islamic cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, and in the same air strike killed another U.S. citizen – the editor of the Islamist web magazine S. Khan.
Many lawyers believe that the targeted assassination of American citizens abroad violates the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, according to which no one can be deprived of his life without a fair trial.
And the «classic» air forces continue to be used non-selectively. According to reports, by August 2012 the conflict in Iraq had claimed the lives of up to 117 thousand civilians, of which approximately 14.7 thousand were killed by an international coalition led by the United States (often as a result of air strikes and the use of unmanned vehicles) .
In Afghanistan since the beginning of «Operation Enduring Freedom» about 14,4-17,2 thousand civilians have been killed, and 9 thousand of these by the forces of the international coalition led by the United States.
According to the Afghan authorities, just one American operation in Kunar Province in February 2011, claimed the lives of 65 civilians, including 22 women and 30 children. In March of that year, a NATO helicopter «mistakenly» shot nine Afghan teenagers between the ages of 7 to 15 years.
Crimes against humanity committed by US soldiers abroad often do not receive proper legal assessment under the national judicial system. In January 2012 the U.S. judicial authorities decided in the case of US Navy Sergeant F. Vutericha – the last of the accused in the «massacre in Haditha» in November 2005.
Then, U.S. Marines shot 24 Iraqi civilians in retaliation for the death of a colleague M. Terrazas, after he had stepped on an improvised explosive device.
This case took place against eight soldiers, one of whom was acquitted, and charges against six were completely dropped. After pleading guilty to «dereliction of duty» F. Vutericha was reduced in rank to private, but the result of a deal with the justice system meant he avoided even a minimum prison term.
In August 2012 the U.S. Justice Department terminated the investigation into the notorious U.S. private security firm «Blackwater» (re-registered as «Zee Services», and from 2012 called «Academi»), on trying to bribe the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Iraq.
This company tried a bribe of 1 million dollars to obtain a license to work in Iraq and to block the investigation of the murder by their staff in September 2007 in Baghdad, of 17 civilians, including children (also more than 20 people were injured.)
Contractors from «Blackwater» accompanied the convoy of the U.S. embassy and under the pretext of security staged a massacre in Nisoor Square. In this case, the U.S. State Department declined the services of this company but only two years after the tragedy.
Illegal abduction and detention of people remain in the arsenal of U.S. intelligence. In September 2006, President Bush acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons.
As it later became known , in 2002-2003, about ten such detention facilities were built by the intelligence services, including in foreign countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand, Morocco, Djibouti, Romania, Lithuania and Poland, creating a legal vacuum containing about 100 prisoners.
In January 2012, the special prison at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) marked its 10-year «anniversary». U.S. President Barack Obama, despite his campaign promise, failed to close it because of opposition from Congress.
Open source information indicates that, during the decade, 779 foreigners passed through Guantanamo. 8 of them died (6 committed suicide). At the beginning of August 2012, 168 prisoners from 24 countries remained in jail, including the Russian citizen R.K. Mingazov, who was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan and is held in a legal vacuum, without charges.
Among those who are still in prison are 87 prisoners that the U.S. administration has itself acknowledged should be released.
The American judicial system feels entitled to detain foreign nationals in third countries and on other than terrorism charges. Most significant in this regard, the Russian Foreign Ministry said were the arrests of Russian citizens V.A. Bout in Thailand and K.V. Yaroshenko in Liberia, carried out on the basis of the evidence «dummy agents» and dubious evidence.
These methods of applying physical and psychological pressure bring into question the very foundations on which the entire investigation and judicial process was based.
Legalized in the United States but condemned by most countries of the world is the practice of torture. In April 16, 2009 the U.S. Department of Justice released four memorandums, prepared by lawyers between 2002-2005, implementing significant cuts in the legal services of the agency.
They thoroughly substantiated the legality of harsh interrogation techniques of prisoners in CIA prisons in terms of U.S. law and international law. However, the treatment of detainees in secret CIA prisons have repeatedly been qualified as torture by international experts:
– The report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2006,
– A confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross in February 2007,
– The report of Swiss Senator D. Marty to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2007,
– Other similar documents.
(1) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Study on Targeted Killings, Human Rights Council, 9-11, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/14/24/Add.6 (May 28, 2010)
(2) Executive Order No. 12333 «US Intelligence Activities».
What else is in the third basket from Uncle Sam?
The Russian Foreign Ministry report on human rights in the United States, along with other crimes, recorded numerous cases of police abuse. In January 2009, the American edition of the Emergency Medicine Journal published the results of a survey of doctors in emergency rooms. The study involved 315 doctors, and almost all the respondents (98%) reported that they had at least once in their career seen patients who had been victims of police abuse.
According to the NGO, «Amnesty International», in the period from 2001 to February 2012, at least 500 people in the U.S. died from police use of stun guns during arrest or during detention. In 2011, after being stopped by California police for a traffic violation, 43-year-old A. Kephart died. An autopsy revealed that he was struck by stun gun 16 times, yet none of the three officers was punished.
Various offenses of a sexual nature (sexual harassment, sexual abuse, rape, etc.) are regular. According to data available in the public domain, in 2010 alone 618 police officers were convicted for this type of conduct, while in 180 of these cases minors were the targets of the violence. Human rights activists say that the level of sexual crime among American police is much higher than in the U.S. population as a whole.
Claims of excessive force by police have been received from members of the movement «Occupy Wall Street» which acts against social inequality. In October 2011, in Oakland, California, police fractured the skull of 24-year-old Iraqi war veteran S. Olsen, leaving him without the power of speech for some time.
n November 2011, the Seattle police used tear gas against a crowd of protesters, including 84-year-old activist D.Reyni, a priest and a 19-year-old pregnant woman. In January 2012, in Oakland 400 people were arrested on charges of vandalism and failure to disperse, and, according to the detainees they were not given the opportunity to voluntarily obey the authorities.
Camps participating in the «Occupy Wall Street» movement were forcibly eradicated in New York, Boston, Denver, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington and other U.S. cities.
The systematic violations of human rights in United States prisons have come to be mass practice. America remains the country with the largest number of prisoners in the world (2.2 million people, or every 99th member of the adult population); more than 60% of American prisoners are members of racial and ethnic minorities.
The number of persons sentenced to life imprisonment is steadily growing- in 2008 alone it was 140.6 thousand, of which 6.8 thousand were teenagers.
In some states, one in 20 prisoners is held in extreme isolation – in solitary confinement. Many prisons do not meet even the minimum standards of detention. Regular and massive numbers of prisoners (up to 2 million victims for the period from 2003 to the present day.) are being harassed by prison staff, including sexual assault.
In the U.S., the exploitation of prison labor is a thriving «business». One in 10 prisoners in this country is held in a commercial prison. In 2010, two private prison corporations made around $ 3 billion in profit. According to human rights activists, as well as those serving time in U.S. prisons, private prisons in most cases do not provide even the minimum standards for a detention facility.
Approximately 60 thousand people in the United States are held in solitary confinement for long periods. 20 thousand are kept alone in single cells on a regular basis.
For example, in Arizona, according to the «Amnesty International» report, over 2.9 thousand people are kept in extreme isolation, (1) or one in 20 prisoners, including minors. This situation, according to numerous accounts, often leads to serious mental disorders.
Human rights activists are particularly concerned about the situation of juvenile offenders in the US. Currently, about seven thousand of them are sentenced to life imprisonment, with 2.5 thousand of these without the right to pardon. In some states, judges are required to sentence teens to life imprisonment if they have committed certain crimes (not necessarily including murder), without taking into account any mitigating circumstances.
In April 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prison administrations are justified in striping naked all newly arrived detainees and subjecting them to a body search, regardless of the severity of the crime committed. American prison authorities sometimes force strip search people detained for minor offenses such as driving with no lights or defective exhaust muffler.
In 33 U.S. states the death penalty is still permitted. There are 3.1 thousand prisoners, 62 of which are women, awaiting the execution of the death sentence handed down to them. From 1976 to 2005, 22 minors were executed in the United States. According to American defenders, from 5 to 10% of those sentenced to capital punishment in the United States suffer from serious mental disorders.
In cases of capital punishment, signs of racial discrimination are evident. Capital punishment is implemented in 5 ways – hanging, firing squad, electric chair, gas chamber, and lethal injection (95% of executions) which, contrary to the assurances of the authorities, leads to suffering for those sentenced.
In March 2011, Ohio became the first state in which the death sentence was carried out using a substance that has previously been used by veterinarians for animal euthanasia. This year alone Texas enforced 12 death sentences and already plan another 3 in November. (2)
Hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. are abused, resulting in some cases in death (in 2010 – 1.6 thousand). Corporal punishment is allowed by law in 19 states, and up to 7.5% of students in the U.S. are subject to this. There are learning centers where children have been «treated» with electric shocks, deprived of food and forced to inhale ammonia.
The USA is one of the three countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is still an acute problem of violence against children adopted from Russia.
Social and economic rights are seriously disrupted in the US. The country has 12.8 million unemployed, 40 million people lack health insurance, and 14.5% of families are experiencing food shortages. The system of protection of workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively in the US is one of the weakest in the developed world.
Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has not ratified any of the conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO). At the same time in the country, the practice of lobbying by various interest groups working in the favor of big business is widespread, which, according to experts of the IDS in New York, is, in fact, a form of legalized corruption.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,the United States has one of the highest levels of income inequality. Of the 34 states in which the international organization conducts research, it puts America ahead of only Turkey, Mexico and Chile.
According to the statistical analysis of Sentier Research, in 2008-2010, white Americans made up 64% of the population but received 76% of total income, while the share of African-Americans and Hispanics, are respectively 13% and 16% of the population, and received 8% and 9% of revenue. According to the Pew Research Centre, the welfare of African Americans has fallen by 53% during the recession. In 2009, the average African-American family capital was 5.6 thousand dollars.
The life of Native Americans, which make up 1.7% of the U.S. population (5.2 million people) can be described as very unstable, especially for those who are still living on reservations (about 700 thousand). Almost a third of them have incomes below the official poverty line and unemployment on reservations is 50%, and in some cases (for example, «Rosebud»), more than 80%.
The annual income of an Indian family, in general, is half the income of the ordinary American. A place called Allen in South Dakota (96.4% of the population are Indians), according to official data, is the poorest in the country, with the average annual per capita income being just over 1.5 thousand dollars, and with 96% of the population living below the poverty line .
One of the most disenfranchised segments of the population of America are migrants, who make up at least half of all those employed in the agricultural sector. Labor rights are violated not only for illegal immigrants, but also those of foreigners working in the country legally.
As noted by NGO Southern Poverty Law Center, in order to participate in the federal program of labor migration on the H-2A visa, foreign workers usually pay their «recruiters» huge contributions and as a result fall into debt.
Coming to the U.S., they have no right to change employer, who arrange their visa, even if they become the target of exploitation. At the same time, they cannot leave the country until they collect enough money to pay their debt.
According to a report released in 2011, by the organization “No More Deaths» entitled «Culture of cruelty»(3), by their actions, U.S. border guards increase the risk of death to illegal migrants, by deliberately driving them into particularly dangerous and difficult areas.
During detention illegal migrants, including children, are often denied water, food and medical care, and 10% of detainees are physically abused. Workers also complain of unsanitary and extremely cramped conditions in detention, confiscation of personal items, including documents, psychological pressure and deliberate separation of families.
Dmitry MININ, Strategic Culture Foundation
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This brief review shows that the issue of human rights, facing all of humanity, is acutely relevant for modern America. All claims of the United States to be the moral leader in this area will require a lot of preparatory work to rid Americans of their own «Augean stables». Otherwise, whoever receives the recipes in this respect from Washington, will always say, «Physician, heal thyself!»