U.S. Human Rights Report Shines Tough Spotlight

U.S. Human Rights Report Shines Tough Spotlight

 

The US State Department’s annual human-rights report – a 360-degree snapshot of the grievances of the citizens of this country and others – comes as a helping hand in a country where human-rights violations abound. But for all its good intentions, the report should be taken with a grain of salt, for in the US as much as in Lebanon, the reforms needed to address the source of human-rights violations remain equally elusive.

A quick look at the less-than-stellar US record in the field of health is eye-opening to those who remain unaware that, in many areas of its social policies, the country is far from being a model of human rights. The adoption of a bill that would grant universal medical coverage to the US population has recently brought to the attention of the world the distress faced by millions of Americans struck with medical conditions whose poverty leaves them to fend for themselves. Upholding their right to health should translate into their society providing them with a social net. Yet, to this day, despite their predicament being a clear human-rights violation, a majority of Congress members have shown no willingness to adopt the health bill, preferring to indulge in partisan horse-trading than to legislate in accordance to human rights standards.

The fact that this is the same Congress that has tasked the US State Department to author a human-rights report exposes the double-standards that lie behind the report and undermine its credibility.

But this effort to contextualize the US human-rights report is not a candid acknowledgment that our government should not address its faulty human-rights record. Rather, our view is that our leaders should indeed feel compelled to strive to preserve the rights of its citizens, but they should do so daily, not only when they come under the fire of external observers, because they are constantly accountable to their citizens.

The task can appear daunting. The State Department report lists egregious human-rights violations over some 25 pages. Indeed, many reforms will be needed to tackle problems such as the use of torture, the practice of arbitrary arrests, or the intimidation of journalists – all violations detailed in the report. But, as this newspaper has repeatedly advocated, one core, systemic reform – an independent judiciary – holds the potential to contain such abuses countrywide.

It is a simple equation. Only on the day our courts hold the unadulterated power to investigate human-rights violations and make the rule of law prevail, when they are immune to corruption and the influence of the local zaims, will this country then be equipped to look into the human-rights violations the US State Department and many others before it have exposed.

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