Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2020
VI. Trampling on International Rules Results in Humanitarian Disasters
At a time when global unity is needed to fight the pandemic, the United States, however, persists in pursuing an agenda of "America first," isolationism, and unilateralism, imposing sanctions wantonly, bullying and threatening international organizations, and treating asylum seekers cruelly, thus becoming the biggest troublemaker to global security and stability.
The United States withdrew from WHO. In order to shirk its responsibility for its disastrous anti-pandemic measures, the Trump administration tried every means to scapegoat the World Health Organization (WHO) by fabricating false charges against the organization. On April 14, 2020, the U.S. government announced its suspension of paying dues to the WHO, which was widely criticized by the international community. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement on April 14, 2020, saying that when the world was fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it was inappropriate to reduce the resources required by the WHO or any other humanitarian organization for operations. President of the American Medical Association, Patrice Harris, stated on April 15, 2020 that combating the pandemic required international cooperation and halting funding to the WHO at this critical moment was a dangerous step in the wrong direction. On April 15, 2020, an online article of the Guardian commented that when the world desperately needed to jointly overcome this threat that the world had never experienced before, the suspension of the WHO dues by the U.S. government was an act that lacked morality and disrupted the international order, and was a horrible betrayal to global solidarity. In July 2020, the U.S. government brazenly announced its withdrawal from the WHO despite the opposition of the international community.
The United States walked away from its commitments to and withdrew from the Paris Agreement. The United States, as the largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, should bear the greatest share of emission reduction based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. However, the United States ran counter to the trend of the times and officially withdrew from the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4, 2020, becoming the only country among the nearly 200 contracting parties to quit the treaty. The international community generally believed that the U.S. move was politically short-sighted, unscientific, and morally irresponsible. "Having the U.S. pull out of Paris is likely to reduce efforts to mitigate, and therefore increase the number of people who are put into a life-or-death situation because of the impacts of climate change," said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald, a coauthor of UN science reports on global warming.
Bullying actions threatened international organizations. On June 11, 2020, the U.S. government authorized economic sanctions and travel restrictions against workers of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their family members for investigating American troops and intelligence officials for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The U.S. sanctions targeting ICC staff were "a direct attack on the institution's judicial independence," according to an article on the website of UN NEWS on June 25, 2020. On June 19, 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution strongly condemning police brutality that led to the death of African American George Floyd. Citing remarks from human rights groups, the AFP said that the final version of the resolution removed the call for further investigations and stripped away any mention of the racism and police brutality in the United States due to "hard lobbying." By bullying other countries, the United States watered down the text of the resolution, escaped from international probes for another time, and ran counter to the African descent in the United States and victims of police violence, said the American Civil Liberties Union.
Unilateral sanctions aggravated humanitarian crisis. At a critical time when COVID-19 spread globally and endangered human life, health, and wellbeing, all countries should work together to respond to the pandemic and maintain global public health security. However, during this pandemic, the U.S. government still imposed unilateral sanctions on countries such as Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria, which made it difficult for the sanctioned countries to obtain needed anti-pandemic medical supplies in a timely manner. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on March 24, 2020, that in the case of a global pandemic, sanctions would hinder medical work and increase risks for everyone. She argued that to maintain global public health security and protect the rights and lives of millions of people in sanctioned countries, sanctions should be relaxed or suspended in certain sectors. A group of 24 senior diplomats from various countries urged the U.S. government to ease medical and humanitarian sanctions on Iran, noting that such move "could potentially save the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iranians," according to a report on the website of the Guardian on April 6, 2020. On April 30, 2020, UN human rights experts said that the U.S. embargo on Cuba and sanctions on other countries seriously undermined international cooperation to curb the pandemic and save lives. The experts called on the United States to implement UN resolutions, lift its economic and financial embargo on Cuba and withdraw measures that prevent Cuba from financing the purchase of medicine, medical equipment, food and other essential goods. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, the Special Rapporteur on human rights for safe drinking water and sanitation, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education issued a joint statement on May 6, 2020, saying that the U.S. sanctions on Venezuela were seriously harming the human rights of the people in the country. They urged the United States to immediately lift sanctions that exacerbated the suffering of the people when the pandemic raged in the country. On Dec. 29, 2020, Alena Douhan, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights, called on the United States to remove unilateral sanctions against Syria, noting that the sanctions would exacerbate the already dire humanitarian crisis in Syria and run roughshod over the Syrian people's rights to live, health, and development.
Asylum seekers were treated cruelly. According to a report of CNN on Sept. 30, 2020, in the 2020 fiscal year, 21 people died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, which was more than double the number of deaths in the fiscal year 2019 and marked the highest annual death toll since 2005. A report published on the website of the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 30, 2020 noted that a huge number of migrant children were stranded in custody for the long haul. Data showed that of the 266,000 migrant children held in government custody in recent years, over 25,000 had been detained for longer than 100 days, close to 1,000 migrant children had spent more than a year in refugee shelters, and some of them had spent more than five years in custody. As reported by multiple U.S. media outlets, dozens of women from Latin American and Caribbean states have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in Georgia, claiming that they were subjected to unnecessary gynecological surgeries without their consent while in ICE custody, including uterus removal in some cases. They said these unwanted surgeries caused severe harm to their physical and mental health. The Guardian website reported on Oct. 22, 2020 that Cameroonian asylum seekers were threatened and forced to sign their own deportation orders. Those who refused to sign were choked, beaten, and pepper-sprayed, with some put in handcuffs to have their fingerprints forcibly taken in place of a signature on orders of removal, by which the asylum seekers waive their rights to further immigration hearings and accept deportation.
Forced deportation of immigrant children continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data tallied by the ICE, as of Jan. 14, 2021, a total of 8,848 detainees had been confirmed as COVID-19 cases. According to a report on the website of the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 18, 2020, the U.S. government had expelled at least 8,800 unaccompanied immigrant children despite serious protection risks during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to UNICEF, migrant children who returned from the United States to Mexico and Central America were facing danger and discrimination.
The United States pardoned criminals slaughtering civilians in other countries. On Dec. 30, 2020, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council, issued a statement, saying that the then U.S. President's pardon of four Blackwater contractors convicted of war crimes in Iraq violated U.S. obligations under international law. The statement called on all states to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the U.S. action. The four Blackwater contractors were found to have committed a massacre at Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007, which left 14 unarmed civilians dead and at least 17 people wounded, according to the statement. Pardoning the Blackwater contractors was an affront to justice and the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families, said the Chair of the Working Group. Pardoning them "contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future," said Marta Hurtado, a spokesperson with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.