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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Long way from Eleanor Roosevelt’s UDHR—Jimmy Carter’s op-ed

Declaration of Human Rights
Americans must reaffirm commitment to Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Editing by Carolyn Bennett

America’s thirty ninth president (1977–1981)

In his foreign relations practice, even though critics called his vision naïve, U.S. President James Earl (Jimmy) Carter received high marks for championing international human rights.

In 1977, President Carter concluded two treaties between the United States and Panama: one giving Panama control over the Panama Canal (effective at the end of 1999); another guaranteeing neutrality of Canal after 1999.  

Middle East/Africa
In 1978, Carter brought together Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland; and, after thirteen days of negotiations, secured the leaders’ agreement to the Camp David Accords, thus ending a state of war that had existed between Egypt and Israel since the 1948 founding of Israel. The negotiated agreement provided for the establishment of full diplomatic and economic relations conditioned on Israel’s returning the occupied Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

Eastern Europe/Asia
On January 1, 1979, Carter established full diplomatic relations between the United States and China and simultaneously broke official ties with Taiwan.  In the same year, in Vienna, Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed a new bilateral strategic arms-limitation treaty (SALT II) intended to establish parity in strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems between the two superpowers on terms that could be adequately verified. Carter removed this treaty from consideration by the U.S. Senate (January 1980) after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. He placed an embargo on the shipment of American grain to the Soviet Union and pressed for a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics scheduled for Moscow.

Then the” Iran Hostage Crisis”
In reaction to the United States’ approved entry of the deposed Shah of Iran (Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi) into the United States for medical treatment, a group of Iranian students, on November 4, 1979, led by Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, seized sixty-six U.S. citizens and held fifty-two of them hostage.

A standoff ensued. President Carter tried to negotiate release of the hostages and avoid direct confrontation government of Iran.  Mass media’s hysterical drumbeat turned attempted negotiations into a presidential liability and crashed helicopter on a secret U.S. military mission attempting to rescue the hostages further affected the perception of the Carter presidency.  

The “hostage crisis” lasted from 1979 until 1981.  It occurred in the aftermath of Iran’s Islamic revolution (1978–79) and its overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy. These events had “dramatic effect on U.S. domestic politics [and] poisoned U.S.-Iranian relations.” The president who succeeded Jimmy Carter took advantage of the crisis to secure his own election to the U.S. presidency and committed what was later exposed as the illegal Arms for Hostages/Iran Contra affair. Britannica

Thirty years later and with at least as many years in human rights work, former President Carter writes on U.S. human rights abuses in the era of Washington’s endless Global War on Terror.  This is some of what Carter had to say in his Monday opinion piece, which was widely headlined today.

Dismissed Declaration

United States leadership in 1948 ably assisted in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which laid “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” Carter recalls.

This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs.

Clearly, the United States has made mistakes in the past, Carter said, but “the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past.”

Detention without charge or trial

Instead of strengthening the UDHR principles, the U.S. government’s “counterterrorism policies are violating at least ten of the declaration’s 30 articles. Among these breaches is the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or ‘associated forces’ —a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge).

This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

Detained denied utterance of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment

Prisoners still detained by the United States at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, “have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom.”

U.S. authorities have revealed that “in order to obtain [prisoners’] confessions, some of the few now being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured more than 100 times by waterboarding; or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills, or by threats to sexually assault their mothers.  And “these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused because the government claims [torture] occurred under the cover of ‘national security.’

“Most prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried.”

Assassination by remote

U.S. drone strikes that cause the deaths of innocent women and children who happen to be in the vicinity of these strikes are “accepted as inevitable.”  In addition to strikes on Afghans, the United States continues to use drones “in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen” — countries “not in any war zone.

“We do not know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington.”

Consequences of Washington’s lawlessness
Citizen responsibility

“Instead of making the world safer,” Carter concludes, “America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”  

We the citizenry must therefore hold ourselves responsible, he says. “Persuade Washington to reverse course. Reestablish moral leadership that is consistent with international human rights norms.”

Sources and notes
“A Cruel and Unusual Record” (Jimmy Carter, op-ed New York Times), June 24, 2012,  

Carter background, Britannica


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1 comment:

  1. The Universal Declaration of Human is the most critical piece of writing on Earth at this moment. It is absolutely imperative that its intentions be carried forward during this the time of immense awakening.