Democracy in America today
by Dmitry MININ
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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»
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
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
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
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
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. In 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
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
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
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
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.
* * *
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!»