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US Stops UN Human Rights Investigations

The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America. Reports from the UN suggest that there are 13 requests for investigation that have been made to the US government, and so far all requests remain unanswered since 7 May 2018. A report from the Guardian suggests that the U.S State Department has stopped responding to official complaints from U.N special rapporteurs; a network of independent experts who act as global regulators on key issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice.

Background

During the Trump presidency only two UN rapporteurs have made fact-finding missions, one on privacy and the other on extreme poverty. As a result of the extreme poverty mission the U.N Special Rapporteur on Poverty, Philip Alston said,

“The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.”

The report by Alston was met with harsh criticism from the then US UN representative Nikki Haley, who accused him of biased reporting.

Trump presidency and questionable human rights policies

Despite poverty being a grave issue in the US, it is Trump’s questionable policies on migration that would benefit from investigation. Over the past year, the shocking separation of families at the US/Mexico border and more recently the shocking firing of teargas at 150 Central Americans attempting to cross the border on 1 January has been widely condemned by the international human rights community.

Felipe Gonzalez Morales, the U.N special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants said that he has approached the Trump administration twice about setting up a formal visit and sent a request in March and July, but both requests have so far been unanswered.

Since his inauguration Trump has made a number of dangerous rollbacks on civil and human rights in the United States. Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program said the impact of the administrations disregard for human rights could have a serious and detrimental ripple effect around the world,

“They are sending a very dangerous message to other countries: that if you don’t cooperate with UN experts they will just go away. That’s a serious setback to the system created after World War II to ensure that domestic human rights violations could no longer be seen as an internal matter,” Dakwar said.

One of the first moves the Trump administration made that signaled a turning point in America’s civil and human rights was the executive order signed by Trump on 27 January, which represented the first version of his ‘Muslim travel ban’ that discriminated against Muslims and banned refugees.

Another questionable move took place in October last year when President Trump announced that the American mission to the UN is attempting to remove the word “gender” from UN human rights documents in what was deemed a brazen attack on transgender people.

Moreover, as reported by ACLU, the Trump administration has taken 5 major steps away from cooperating with the international human rights community, these include: leaving UNESCO, withdrawing funding from the UNWRA (U.N Relief and Works Agency – the primary organisation dedicated to supporting Palestinian refugees), pulling out of the U.N Human Rights Council as announced by U.S Ambassador to the U.N Nikki Haley in June 2018, withdrawal from the negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration and threats to the staff of the international Criminal Court by National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Response

According to a Guardian report of 4 January the US state department declined to give a reason for not responding to the UN rapporteur’s requests. A spokesman said the US remained,

“deeply committed to the promotion and defense of human rights around the globe”

UN rapporteurs including Philip Alston expressed concern over the US’ lack of response. Philip Alston said the move would set,

“the most unfortunate precedent as the US has always tried to press other countries to be accountable. This sends a message that you can opt out of routine scrutiny if you don’t like what is being said about your record on human rights.”

The international human rights community has also expressed deep concern over the current climate of disregard for international human rights. Amnesty International’s Advocacy Director Daniel Balson said,

“The Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with the UN Special Procedures system is a jarring exercise in hypocrisy…Halting cooperation with UN investigators threatens the rights of vulnerable communities within the US and around the world.”

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