President Bush refused to allow the United States to be dragged before the United Nations Human Rights Council, but President Obama has reversed that policy. So the United States was hauled before the Human Rights Council, currently chaired by Cuba, to answer for its alleged human rights violations:
A delegation of top officials, led by Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, gave diplomats at the U.N. Human Rights Council a detailed account of U.S. human rights shortcomings and the Obama administration’s efforts to redress them. It marked the first time the United States has subjected its rights record to examination before the Geneva-based council as part of a procedure that requires all states to allow their counterparts to grade their conduct.
Several delegations camped out overnight to be first in line to criticize Washington, with the initial few speakers including Cuba, Iran and Venezuela.
The administration has engaged in an intensive effort, including holding town hall meetings with Muslims, Native Americans, African Americans and other minority groups, to assess the extent of domestic rights violations. In August, it gave the U.N. rights council a 22-page report documenting U.S. abuses, including practices by federal and local police and corrections and immigration officials, and defending President Obama’s counterterrorism policies. Friday’s meeting provided the first opportunity for states to comment on the report. . . .
The United States’ most vociferous critics – Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea and Venezuela – opened the session with a string of highly critical accounts of U.S. policies, denouncing detention policies from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay and characterizing the embargo on Cuba as an act of genocide.
The tone struck by succeeding speakers was more restrained. But even Washington’s closest friends found fault with some of its policies. Many urged the United States to suspend the death penalty, with the ultimate goal of abolishing the practice, and to ratify international treaties aimed at protecting the rights of women and children.
China and Russia, two major powers with poor rights records but important relations with the United States, acknowledged U.S. advances in human rights, citing efforts to expand health care. But China, which has brutally repressed its own ethnic minorities, criticized U.S. law enforcement officials for using “excessive force against racial minorities.”
Germany’s envoy scolded some of America’s most strident critics. “We have noted with interest that some of the states which are on the first places of today’s speakers list had spared no effort to be the first to speak on the U.S.,” said Germany’s delegate, Konrad Scharinger. “We would hope that those states will show the same level of commitment when it comes to improving their human rights record at home.”
We hold other countries, including many of those on this panel, to human rights standards. Shouldn’t we submit to the same medicine? Or is this exercise inherently bogus?