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US behavior creates human rights credibility gap

US behavior creates credibility gap for US State Department’s Human Rights Report, says US Human Rights Network

In an unprecedented move, the US Human Rights Network, a network of more than 160 US-based human rights organizations, today issued a memorandum to President George Bush decrying the current state of human rights in the US, as the US State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for the US government to issue a report condemning human rights abuses in other countries at a time when it is violating these very same standards at home and abroad,” said Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN).

The US State Department says that ‘…the central goal of US foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights’ and that the United States ‘seeks to hold governments accountable to their obligations under universal human rights norms and international human rights instruments.

“But who is holding the US to account to those very same obligations?” asked Baraka.

USHRN members are monitoring US human rights practice in a whole range of areas – from employment rights to torture, from discrimination to housing rights, from poverty and homelessness to abuses arising from the “war on terror” – and have found that not only is the US falling very far short of its obligations in all of these areas – it is actually practicing itself what it condemns in other countries.

“This is not a partisan political attack on President Bush,” said Baraka, who noted that the more than 160 organizations affiliated with this Network span the political spectrum and are based throughout the country. “Their only interest is with the human rights of US citizens and residents and any others affected by US actions internationally – including as a result of current attempts by the federal government to legitimize the use of torture and ill-treatment against foreigners abroad in complete violation of international law, which explicitly prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under any circumstances.”

“We are concerned that the behavior of the US government both domestically and internationally is bringing this nation into disrepute around the world – and this reflects on all of us as Americans,” said Baraka.

“Good human rights practice begins at home,” added Baraka. “Violations of human rights by the US government has not only created a climate of fear and repression at home – it has also provided fodder for those around the world who seek to undermine or ignore any legitimate calls for human rights that the US government may make – with US government representatives becoming an object of derision at international forums where human rights are discussed.”

The US Human Rights Network plans to follow up today’s memorandum with a detailed Human Rights Agenda for the Bush Administration, in which it will outline the main areas of human rights concern in the US, the government’s international obligations with regard to these areas, and clear recommendations on how the administration can address the serious shortfall between the two.

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