U.S., Canada adopt ‘selective’ approach to human rights

2020-11-24 16:14:25
U.S., Canada adopt ‘selective’ approach to human rights

Sari Bashi, a human rights lawyer, believes that the U.S. and Canada tend to follow double standards toward human rights, saying that they “support human rights selectively”.

In a recent interview with the Tehran Times, Sari Bashi, a consultant for Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN), states that U.S. policy toward human rights is not consistent.

“Unfortunately, the United States and Canada support human rights selectively, and the United States, in particular, has not done nearly enough to call out its allies for human rights abuses,” Bashi remarked.

Canada and the U.S. often accuse other nations of human rights violations while they themselves are known to sell weapons to corrupt regimes in West Asia, which are made use of against defenseless people, in particular in Yemen.

Canada similarly claims a global reputation as a human rights defender, while the Ottawa government has a terrible record when it comes to the rights of the indigenous peoples. According to many reports revealed by the Human Rights Watch, the Natives are deprived of their right to safe drinking water, and police osten mistreat and abuse indigenous women and girls.

The following is the whole text of the interview conducted and published by the Tehran Times:

“Q: Certain Western states have a bad record in view of human rights, so are these countries entitled to condemn other countries?

A: I think the fact that all authorities abuse human rights do not disqualify any particular government from raising human rights issues with others. Certainly, the best way to encourage respect for human rights is to lead by example, and every government in the world that has invested more energy in improving in own human rights record could be more credible to criticize other government who may not be; but at the same time I think it is always legitimate to raise the issue of human rights abuses and we should make sure that we are holding our governments accountable to universal standards of human rights as articulated by international instruments.

“We should make sure that we are holding our governments accountable to universal standards of human rights as articulated by international instruments,” the consultant for Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN) says. Q: When it comes to Israeli crimes against Palestinians, why do countries like Canada and the U.S. give full support to Tel-Aviv? How is it possible that Israel wins such support?

A: I think lack of accountability for Israeli violations of human rights and international law against Palestinians reflects a weakness in accountability of the international system.

Unfortunately, the UN Security Council cannot act in the Israel-Palestine case because of the veto power of powerful members, especially the United States, while other mechanisms of accountability such as the International Criminal Court are struggling to have jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Palestine. So we have a lot of work to do in obtaining a stronger mechanism of accountability, and the fact that Israel enjoys such a strong military and financial support from the United States reflects a distorted political system in which the U.S. as a superpower is using its significant influence to allow its allies to commit abuses.

Q: Why is Canada not really concerned about human rights violations when it clinches arms deals with a value of 15 billion dollars with Saudi Arabia? Is it justifiable to say that Canada is not aware that these weapons are used against children and women in Yemen?

A: Canada, like all countries, has a responsibility to ensure that it does not violate human rights or international humanitarian law including in its military deals; so selling weapons to actors who are committing war crimes in Yemen will be a violation of Canada’s obligations and certainly, the Canadian government and the Canadian people have a responsibility to ensure that their foreign policy respects human rights and does not contribute to war crimes.

Q: Washington has imposed harsh sanctions on Iran that are hampering Iran's access to medicine. At such a hard time, countries like Canada have been cooperating with Washington in pushing ahead with its unilateral sanctions by refusing to sell humanitarian goods to Iran. What is your comment?

A: Unfortunately, the United States and Canada support human rights selectively, and the United States, in particular, has not done nearly enough to call out its allies for human rights abuses. At DAWN, we believe that U.S. policy should be consistent. So the same standard in terms of respecting human rights that are applied towards Iran should also be applied towards Israel and every other country because these are universal standards of how government should treat the people under their control.

Q: Why have Western countries, especially Canada and the U.S., preferred to turn a blind eye to Khashoggi's murder while they knew that Mohammed bin Salman was directly responsible for that crime? How could Saudis distract attention away from their crimes and influence human rights bodies in the UN?

A: I think the lack of accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi reflects a weakness in the system of international politics and especially the United States, which is selling Saudi Arabia billions of dollars in the arms trade and providing diplomatic cover that allows the Saudi government to act with impunity. The lack of accountability for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder regarding the role of Mohammad Bin Salman indicates that real change is needed. What is encouraging is that in the United States, there is pressure not just from the American people but also in the American Congress seeking accountability, and I remind that the U.S. Congress has required the federal government to provide information about those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's murder in the form of a DNI (Director of National Intelligence) report that was to be published last year. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has ignored that mandate and refused to release the report. The refusal is the subject of litigation in U.S. courts, and we hope that the incoming administration will follow the law and do what Congress has required, which is to reveal what American intelligence services know about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

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