AI: Human rights "double standard" in US State Dept. report FWD

Tom Boland (
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 19:27:49 -0800 (PST)

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* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
International *
News Service:038/99
AI INDEX: AMR 51/33/99
25 FEBRUARY 1999


>From Alabama to Wyoming: 50 counts of double standards -- the missing
entries in the US report on human rights

On 25 February, the US State Department will publish its annual report on
human rights, addressing the unjustified killing or ill-treatment of people
by police and other security forces in some 190 countries -- similar
incidents in New York, Illinois or California, however, will not be granted
a mention.

"One could very well say that this year, like every other, there will be 50
entries missing from the State Department report: from Alabama to Wyoming,"
Amnesty International said, deploring the USA's hypocritical stance at not
recognizing the extent to which human rights abuses are going unchecked in
its own territory.

"The US government has a selective approach to human rights -- using
international human rights standards as a yardstick by which to judge other
countries, but consistently failing to apply those same standards at home."

"Furthermore, US government policies often lead to human rights being
sacrificed for political, economic and military interests, both in US
territory and abroad," the organization continued.  "By providing weapons,
security equipment and training to other countries, the USA is responsible
for the same abuses it denounces in its State Department report."

According to Amnesty International, when it comes to human rights, the USA
discriminates against countries and victims.

"The US government often criticizes countries it considers hostile, while
ignoring abuses committed by its allies or failing to take action that
would run counter to US interests. When it comes to victims, human rights
violations committed in US territory are not even admitted as such."

Human rights violations in the USA are serious and persistent.  Just in the
past year, Amnesty International recorded regular reports of torture and
ill-treatment including:

-the death of a prisoner after being strapped for hours to a restraint board;

-allegations of immigration detainees being beaten and tortured with
electro-shock shields while held in four-point restraint;

-the use of the remote control electro-shock stun belt in trials and
prisoner transportation in well over 100 jurisdictions, including
Louisiana, where stun belts have been used on low security HIV/AIDS inmates.

In US prisons and jails, physical and sexual abuse are endemic, and
repressive control methods -- like electro-shock weapons or
prolonged use of restraint chairs -- are increasingly being used.

Inquiries into police brutality in some jurisdictions in the last decade --
including Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC -- show a pattern of
systematic abuses.

The US Justice Department receives thousands of complaints every year,
which many regard as just the tip of an iceberg.
Those whose rights have been violated often receive financial compensation
in out of court settlements -- which effectively means the taxpayer is
paying for authorities' right to abuse their power with impunity.

The USA is failing to meet even the minimum international standards
regarding the use of the death penalty.  Also, by executing ever increasing
numbers of people, the country it is out of step with the international
trend towards abolition.

International human rights standards demand the highest legal safeguards
for all capital trials, seek to restrict the scope of the death penalty,
see it as unacceptable punishment for the mentally ill, and forbid its use
against juvenile offenders. Not only does the USA fail on all these counts,
but early this month, the execution of Sean Sellers for crimes committed
when he was a 16-year-old boy confirmed the USA as the world's leading
executioner of child offenders.

Use of the death penalty in the USA has consistently shown to be racist
and, as the authorities attempt to speed up the time between sentence and
execution, the risk of killing the innocent is constantly increasing.

In terms of the treatment of asylum seekers, people seeking refuge in the
USA from persecution in their own countries are increasingly locked up in
detention and effectively treated like criminals.

"While the US State Department report on human rights serves a good purpose
in reminding the international community of the need to remain vigilant
about human rights protection, the USA itself should not be immune from
international scrutiny," Amnesty International said.  "Victims of human
rights abuses in the USA have the right not to be discriminated against.
By failing to take a close look at home, the USA is doing just that,"
Amnesty International said.

"In addition to looking at the state of human rights abroad, it is high
time for the USA to recognize this situation and put an end to it. "

Amnesty International's on-going campaign on human rights in the USA was
launched in October 1998.  As part of the campaign, Amnesty International
has been calling for the US to adopt and rigorously enforce a binding code
of conduct, based on human rights, covering all transfers of military,
security and police equipment, services and expertise.

Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X
8DJ, London, United Kingdom
see also


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