(MintPress) – As the U.S. takes a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, the records of its oppressive allies are drawn to light. Throughout the world, the U.S. continues to enjoy friendly relationships with some of the world’s most horrific human rights abusers, including Saudi Arabia, where women are still unable to vote.
But they’re not the only ones. Around the world, the U.S. has paired with regimes that deny basic rights to their citizens and target those who attempt to speak out against injustices, compromising its role as a leader of freedom and democracy around the globe.
Considering the U.S. has repeatedly used the defending of human rights as a precursor to war, including most recent cases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the records of those who are friends to the West, yet carry out the most abusive governments in the world, need to be addressed.
Some of the States’ Western allies have also been caught up in censorship legislation, coming under fire from rights activists who see it as a slippery slope away from an open democracy. England has been at the forefront of this movement, with legislation passed in 2010 that gave the government the ability to censor websites if material was thought to be infringing on copyright laws.
Freedom and Saudi Arabia are rarely used in the same sentence. And yet America, touted as a beacon of freedom throughout the world, enjoys a close relationship with the dictatorship.
The 2012 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the country cited detention for those practicing peaceful dissent, citing laws that penalize people for practicing the freedom of expression, assembly and association.
Rights for women in the country are extremely limited, as females are not even permitted to drive cars. Yet not being able to operate a vehicle is the least of problems for women who are oppressed from basic freedoms. Treated as minors, women are not permitted to travel, receive an education or work without permission from a male. Women still lack the right to register to vote.
Despite these grave human rights abuses and limits of freedom, the U.S. continues to do business with the country, especially in the way of arms sales. HRW cites $60 billion in arms sale by the U.S. — the largest ever arms-related transaction.
Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East and is regularly referred to by U.S. leaders as a democratic nation to be modeled after. Yet the country is known for limiting free speech and its illegal occupation of the West Bank. Palestinians who attempt to peacefully protest against the occupation are regularly arrested.
Those who publicly speak out against the government are limited from entering the country altogether. In 2010, world renowned American activist and author Noam Chomsky was banned from entering the West Bank at the Jordanian border. His crime was speaking critically of the occupation, which has been deemed illegal by the world’s largest human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.
Occupation of the Gaza Strip has created what Chomsky refers to as an open air prison, where Palestinians are not free to leave and are therefore limiting Palestinians from essential services, such as water and goods.
And the Israeli military is funded by the U.S. government, which gives $3 billion a year in aid to the country.
Bahrain was in the spotlight this year for government-sponsored crackdowns on all forms of political dissent, following a year of heavy demonstrations against the government.
Drawing from the Arab Spring, residents within the country began to revolt against the oppressive monarchy. Enjoying strong ties with Saudi Arabia, it invited funding from the country in its efforts to stifle those seeking reform. Yet, despite this, the U.S. did not stand up to the nation on the public stage, choosing instead to keep its Navy Fleet in the country and maintain strong ties.
Documentary footage by then-CNN journalist Amber Lyon showcased the revolt in Bahrain, where those rising up as activists were targeted by the government. Protesters were subject to violence by the hands of government forces, which have not stopped short of the use of violent ammunition. Hundreds have been detained — those charged were accused of terrorism and attempts to overthrow the government by force.
Columbia is considered a top U.S. ally in South America. Yet its human rights record is one of the worst in the region. The country has repeatedly been the target of HRW, citing its record of internal displacement and murder of its own citizens.
Labor rights leaders in the country face death for their work, as the country is considered the most dangerous in the world for trade unionists.
In 2008, 51 trade unionists were murdered, according to the National Labor School (NLS). Perhaps more disturbing is the lack of justice sought in these cases. While 197 trade unionists have been killed since 2007, the Attorney General’s office has worked toward convictions in only six cases as of May 2011.
Women’s rights in the country are not adequate to protect females from rape and domestic abuse. According to a report released Nov. 14, 2 million women who have been internally displaced (forced to leave their homes) face high rates of either rape or domestic abuse. Despite recent laws against such actions, charges or convictions relating to such cases are rare.
Ethiopia, an open ally of the U.S., ranks high on the list of human rights abusers in Africa. It continues to be a top USAID recipient and a “friend” of the West. Yet its record for freedom is appalling.
In 2008, it instituted the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which banned all foreign human rights organizations from operating in the country. Domestic groups receiving at least 10 percent of foreign funding were included in that category.
The government has enacted the widespread practices of ethnic cleansing for the purpose of obtaining land, a process known as land grabbing. That land is then marketed for widespread agricultural operations. A 2007 U.N. report highlighted that such practices were done through violence, especially targeted at young girls and women, who were often victims of rape.
The African country has become notorious for its human rights abuses, which have resulted in the forced eviction of natives to pave way for shopping centers and other Western-inspired development.
Widespread arrests of those merely suspected of taking part in demonstrations against the government and its actions are regularly arrested. In 2011, 100 students were arrested and detained for attempting to organize non-violent opposition protests against the government, according to Amnesty International.
Despite this, the U.S. maintains close relations with the country and its government, and it has a vested interest in the country’s oil sector. According to the U.S. State Department, exports from the country to the U.S. “are dominated by petroleum products.” In turn, the U.S. exports to the region include machinery, iron and steel products.
Myanmar has recently emerged as an ally to the U.S., with the State Department recognizing its recent push toward democratization. Yet the country is still consumed by a government-sponsored conflict that has killed and displaced more than 20,000 people.
The process by which the government-backed Rakhine Buddhists have taken on to remove the nation of the minority Rohingya Muslims is similar to that of ethnic cleansing. Torture and arson of homes belonging to the Rohingya have left thousands without a home. Considering the government does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, despite ancestry that dates back generations in the country, there is no protection for those fleeing violence.
Despite this, the U.S. has lifted trade sanctions on the country, opening the door for oil and gold exploration by U.S. companies. U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the atrocities in a recent visit, but his comments were seen by many as lip service, considering the conflict did not change his mind regarding the sanction lift.
Democracy and the US
The U.S. has regularly used human rights abuses as a reason and precursor to occupation and invasion in countries around the world. Yet, based on the current state of its allies — large and small — it seems there is a missing piece in the puzzle that drives the U.S. to intervene.
The balancing act between what is economically beneficial and what is beneficial to the people living in the country is often off balance. With the U.S. now taking a leading role in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the report card of its allies should be questioned and addressed by the U.S. government, which has the power to push for reform through sanctions and a cooperative effort among other leading world allies.