Monday, October 24, 2005

A Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The United States Congress will debate the human rights of the Scheduled Castes in India next month. Does the United States have the credentials to discuss the subject given its own record?

The United States Congressional Commission on China had released its annual report on human rights in China. The China State Council, in turn, released a report on March 3, 2005 titled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004". Sandhya Jain, in her Op-Ed in the Organizer dated October 23, 2005, extracts key points in the Chinese publication.

The United States has not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It fares poorly on race relations. Let's leave aside the recent fiasco in New Orleans. The Chinese refer to a study of the National Urban League dated March 24, 2004 to highlight the fact that there are five African-American murder victims to every white American murder victim. The incidence of HIV/AIDS amongst African-Americans is ten times that of white Americans. The poverty rate amongst African-Americans is thrice that of the whites. The Chinese cite an article from the Washington Post dated May 17, 2004 to emphasize that many schools in the United States remain racially segregated to this day.

The Chinese document quotes FBI Crime Statistics to point out that there were 93,233 rape cases of women in the United States in 2003. One million abused women are treated at First Aid Centers in the United States every year. 1,500 American women are murdered by their husbands or lovers each year. 78% of American women are subject to physical assault at least once in their life time. The Chinese publication mentions the rape of female military personnel by male colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would add that the incidence of domestic abuse in the United States is comparable to India where one in five women are battered by their spouses.

China cites the February 27, 2004 issue of USA Today to indicate that poverty compels 400,000 children in the United States into street prostitution each year. In the decade 1994-2004, the United States spent US$ 7 billion to build new jails. America's prisons are its second largest employer after General Motors with 530,000 personnel on their payroll. The goods and services manufactured by prison inmates in the United States surged from US$ 400 million in 1980 to US$ 1.1 billion in 1994. This needs to be viewed in light of American charges of forced labor camps in China. The October 12, 2004 edition of the New York Times reports that 13% of prison inmates in the United States are raped in custody.

The United States has the largest number of gun owners in the world. The Chinese report alludes to a publication of the United States Department of Justice dated November 29, 2004 to reveal that 31,000 Americans are killed by firearms each year. This translates into 80 people shot dead every day. Police violence is a serious problem.

The July 6, 2004 edition of the Baltimore Sun revealed that the average income of the bottom 90% of the United States had not changed from 1970 to 2000. The average income of the top 10% rose by 90%. This information is adjusted for inflation. Should the United States Congress pontificate on human rights in India given the facts in America?


Closethisaccount said...

Haha, I definitely like the Chinese attitude. Maybe instead of pontificating how more 'democratic' and 'free' we are as a society than China, we would be well served by taking a leaf out of their book, and instituting a long term foreign policy outlook based on internal needs rather than the one at present, which at times seems to be more focused on getting approval from the US. A tad exaggerated, but Indian foreign policy at times still seems to suffer from a colonial hangover.

Red said...

The Americans are being hypocritical. We all know that. So are the Chinese, surprise surprise.

The question remains, there are atrocities committed against SC's and ST's in India. So how does the US's documenting them hurt us. Do we know of State department reports actually creating things or making them up. I realized researching that their Reports on Religious Freedom are far more extensive than what the National Minorities Commission in India comes up with. Also, these reports allow one to compare whats happening in various countries. So if the end result, getting India to act to protect SC/STs is achieved, why is it a bad thing.

The US has hardly signed any international treaties. But this is also because of the complicated nature of the US polity. The President's signature is not enough, both houses of Congress and in some cases all the state conngresses must agree. But just because the USA has not signed the ICESR and Guatemala has does'nt imply that these rights are better protected in Guatemala than in USA?

Jaffna said...

Dear Red,

We all agree on the need to protect the rights of the scheduled castes and tribes. But I do not accept the view that a debate in the United States Congress would help India in this regard.

The documentation of the United States is often flawed, biased and partial. I refer you to the Department of State annual reports on human rights which I had covered in an earlier posting. The chapters on India and China are detailed and exhaustive. By comparison, the sections on Sa'udi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Turkey are incomplete. (I need not allude to the human rights situation in those countries). The chapters on other states in South Asia do not reflect the human rights situation in a comprehensive manner either.

The United States reports on religious freedom have an ideological bias. I would rather that impartial international institutions be delegated the task to monitor human rights and religious equality. The United States is motivated by geo-political reasons, not human rights. Hence our response to their self-proclaimed moral adjudication needs to be governed by international realpolitik, not human rights.

You refer to the inability of the United States to sign international treaties because of domestic procedural formalities. I disagree. Congress would have gladly supported the Executive on the Kyoto Protocol. But commercial interests had forced the United States presidency from signing it. I can give numerous examples. And domestic procedure is hardly an excuse for non-compliance with widely accepted international norms. It will not be acceptable for India and it should not be for the United States either.

I liked the Chinese report. Let the Congress debate on the aftermath of Hurricane Kathrina and the possible race bias in relief efforts there. Even Indonesia and Sri Lanka did far better in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.

Best regards

Red said...

Thanks for responding. I enjoyed the Chinese reports as well.

My point on domestic procedure however was not to excuse non compliance with international norms but to suggest that there it'nt a strong link between signing an international treaty and actual enforcement of human rights norms.

There a several countries which sign multiple treaties, often due to pressure but hardly comply to them. Others like the US don't sign treaties but have relatively better internal human rights records.

To be fair, I would not give much weight to US credentials as a human rights defender and I did enjoy the Chinese reports. Despite not being "secular right" I am Indian (one out of three is not bad) and I really enjoy this blog.



Jaffna said...


You are a lawyer and I gather that you are interested in Sri Lanka. You should write on it.


Anonymous said...

Awesome and brilliant. I loved it.

GGK said...

Human rights et. all are issues raised by one group party to demean other.
With that said what the hell do chinese seem to care about no hans in china. I dont buy any chinese stats.


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