The seven sins of the alliance system of the United States (part 3)

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The third sin: Infringement

The U.S. alliance system bends international rules to its will, remains selective in applying international laws, challenges justice with might, distorts international laws to whitewash its wrongdoings, and seeks only its own interests.

◆The United States has either refused to join or withdrawn from international conventions and organizations.

Over the years, the United States has followed an "America First" approach and withdrawn from a number of international treaties and organizations, dealing a heavy blow to multilateralism and undercutting the UN-centered international system.

Washington, for example, has refused to ratify the 1948 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention that recognizes workers' rights to association, refused to sign the Geneva Agreements of 1954 that seek peaceful settlement of the two questions concerning the Korean Peninsula and Indo-China, refused to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, refused to sign the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is supported by most countries and was once advocated by Washington. In 1984, under the pretext that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was over politicized, the United States withdrew from the UN agency for the first time.

The United States is also the only country in the world that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989. It has also failed to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and has withdrawn its signature to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In 2001, the United States solely opposed negotiations on a verification protocol of the Biological Weapons Convention, and has blocked them to date.

In January 2017, the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the grounds that the trade deal would destroy the U.S. manufacturing sector. In June the same year, though a major greenhouse gas emitter, the United States announced its decision to exit the Paris Agreement, and then restarted its fossil fuel mining projects, claiming that the climate accord had put it at a disadvantage. The country withdrew from UNESCO for the second time in October 2017, citing the "need for fundamental reform," and then announced two months later that it was withdrawing from the Global Compact on Migration because the non-binding UN migration pact was "inconsistent with U.S. immigration policy and the Trump Administration's immigration principles."

In May 2018, Washington announced its decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), calling the 2015 nuclear deal "a lie," "a horrible, one-sided deal" and "disastrous." In June 2018, the United States quit the UN Human Rights Council, claiming that the council was biased against Israel and was "a poor defender of human rights." In the same year, the United States also announced its withdrawal from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes relating to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in response to Palestine's complaint to the ICJ over the U.S. government's relocation of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

In August 2019, the United States announced its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to develop ground-launched conventional missiles without restraints. In April 2020, it halted funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) and formally moved to quit the organization in July (though later rejoining the WHO after U.S. President Joe Biden took office in early 2021). In May 2020, the United States announced its decision to exit the Open Skies Treaty, and formally backed out in November.

◆The United States and its allies have committed massive human rights abuses in wars overseas.

On Dec. 30, 2020, the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries under the UN Human Rights Council said in a statement that the pardons granted by then U.S. President Trump to four convicted Blackwater contractors for war crimes in Iraq violated U.S. obligations under international law, and called on all States parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardons. On Dec. 23, 2020, the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concerns over the pardoning in a statement, saying that the step "contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future."

On April 12, 2021, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet expressed concerns in a statement that the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, then reaching its final stages in the British legislative process, could lead to shielding military personnel operating abroad from due accountability for acts of torture or other serious international crimes, adding that "the Bill would make it substantially less likely that UK service members on overseas operations would be held accountable for serious human rights violations amounting to international crimes." On Oct. 5, 2020, 10 experts from the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council also voiced concerns that the bill violates the British obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law, and protects British soldiers serving abroad from charges for serious international crimes, including unlawful killing and torture.

On April 14, 2021, UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, issued a joint statement to criticize the U.S. anti-terrorism program "Rewards for Justice" for violating the human rights of some of the individuals it targets.

"Many of the people targeted by the Rewards for Justice program have had their due process rights denied," said the statement. "By offering money for information that can lead to the capture of these individuals, the program encourages others to participate in the denial of these rights."

◆The United States has imposed long-arm jurisdiction and unilateral sanctions on many countries over the years.

Relying on U.S. laws including Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the United States has long arbitrarily imposed long-arm jurisdiction and unilateral sanctions on other countries and foreign companies. To date, it has reaped huge profits by imposing economic sanctions on nearly 40 countries, affecting nearly half of the global population. From 2009 to 2017, the United States gained 190 billion U.S. dollars and access to a large amount of corporate data from Europe alone through the long-arm jurisdiction. Companies like Alstom were acquired by U.S. companies after the sanctions.

Washington applied more than 350 unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela between 2015 and 2019. The new set of unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States against Venezuela were "extremely broad," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet in August 2019. "I fear that they will have far-reaching implications on the rights to health and to food in particular, in a country where there are already serious shortages of essential goods," said Bachelet in a statement, adding that evidence has shown that "wide-ranging unilateral sanctions can end up denying people's fundamental human rights."

In 2018, Turkey sentenced a U.S. pastor, who had been arrested on charges of espionage and links to the Gulen movement, to years in jail. The United States unilaterally announced additional tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Turkey after communication through diplomatic channels failed. Under the U.S. economic sanctions, the Turkish lira tumbled as much as 18 percent in August 2018, throwing Turkey's foreign exchange market into chaos.

In 2019, the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security imposed supply restrictions on Huawei and its affiliates. Since June 2019, the U.S. government has added more than 200 Chinese companies to its economic blacklist.

In April 2020, seven UN human rights experts called on the United States to lift its economic and financial embargo on Cuba, saying the U.S. embargo was obstructing humanitarian responses to help the country's health care system fight the COVID-19 pandemic. They said the U.S. embargo on Cuba and sanctions on other countries seriously undermine international cooperation to curb the pandemic, treat patients and save lives.

The United States has imposed more than 1,600 unilateral sanctions on Iran, covering various fields of Iran's national economy, including oil, finance, shipping and automobiles. Despite the repeated U.S. claim that humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions, Iran has been unable to purchase medicines and the like through normal channels for a long time, which has caught the country in a humanitarian dilemma of medicine shortages. The Trump Administration adopted a policy of maximum pressure against Iran, and resorted to long-arm jurisdiction to deter the whole world from conducting legitimate and reasonable economic and trade exchanges with Iran. Many Chinese entities and individuals were thus sanctioned by the U.S. side. Former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in December 2019 that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran had cost the country 200 billion dollars in foreign exchange income and investment.

After the outbreak of COVID-19, the United States has prevented the International Monetary Fund from granting a loan to Iran to combat the epidemic and not allowed its allies, including South Korea and Japan, to release Iran's frozen funds overseas, depriving the country of the access to medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines. The United States has also wielded its sanctions against Syria, Yemen and other war-torn countries, further impacting those countries' fragile economic and social foundations and creating a humanitarian disaster worse than war.

In March 2021, UN human rights experts said in a statement that "the sanctions authorised by the United States on the base of announced states of emergency violate a wide range of human rights in China, Cuba, Haiti, Iran, Nicaragua, the Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and other countries around the world."

The United States has also obstructed the work of international judicial institutions. In March 2020, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Afghanistan, including any that may have been committed by Americans, which the U.S. alliance system spared no effort in obstructing. In June 2020, former U.S. President Trump issued an executive order that authorized asset freezes and family travel bans against ICC officials as well as other persons that contributed to the investigation. In September 2020, then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions against ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Director of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko. These measures "constitute serious attacks against the Court, the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, and the rule of law more generally," the ICC said in a statement, calling the U.S. steps "another attempt to interfere with the Court's judicial and prosecutorial independence."

◆The Five Eyes Alliance countries have carried out mass surveillance of other countries and their own people.

The Five Eyes Alliance countries have long been engaged in large-scale cyber theft, surveillance and attacks, and obliged technology companies to insert "backdoors" in encrypted applications. The United States has invested a large amount of money and human resources in cyber tapping and surveillance, with its total intelligence expenditure in 2018 reaching as much as 80.5 billion dollars. In October 2013, the German government said Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone may have been bugged by U.S. intelligence. WikiLeaks disclosed in 2015 that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on French presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, and Francois Hollande. In May 2021, media exposed another scandal of the United States monitoring its European allies, reporting that the NSA spied on text messages and phone conversations of leaders from Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, etc. from 2012 to 2014 by tapping into Danish information cables.

The United States, meanwhile, has used cyber means to conduct mass surveillance of ordinary people around the world. In June 2013, top-secret documents of the NSA program PRISM leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that the NSA was gathering nearly 5 billion mobile phone records per day. It was also exposed that the NSA had secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, stealing information from hundreds of millions of users and wantonly tracking their personal relationships and social activities. It was also known that the NSA had been monitoring mobile applications and grabbing personal data for years. The exposure of PRISM triggered a strong backlash, with public doubts and resentments about the U.S. surveillance of the global network mounting in many countries.

On top of that, starting from the 1970s and by utilizing its control over Crypto AG, a Swiss company that sold encryption devices, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency on the one hand reaped millions of dollars through the sale of encoding devices to foreign governments and businesses, while on the other stealing confidential information from more than 120 countries by decrypting messages sent through Crypto AG devices.

◆The UN Human Rights Council has expressed concerns in multiple statements over various U.S. violations of human rights.

On Dec. 29, 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights said in a statement that the enforcement of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, also known as the Caesar Act, "may worsen the existing humanitarian crisis, depriving the Syrian people of the chance to rebuild their basic infrastructure."

"What particularly alarms me is the way the Caesar Act runs roughshod over human rights, including the Syrian people's rights to housing, health, and an adequate standard of living and development," the UN human rights expert said. "The U.S. government must not put obstacles in the way of rebuilding of hospitals because lack of medical care threatens the entire population's very right to life."

On Feb. 23, 2021, 16 experts of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, including the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, issued a joint statement calling on the U.S. government to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and address ongoing violations of human rights being committed against the 40 remaining detainees, including torture and other ill-treatment, during its review of how to close the center.

The U.S. government should ensure that those who had been subjected to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, and denied fundamental rights were given reparation, and ensure independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions of allegations, such as secret detention and unfair trial, the experts said.

On March 2, experts of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, including the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, raised serious concerns about the environmental pollution in the southern U.S. state of Louisiana, saying the development of petrochemical complexes in the area has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but also subjected its residents to health problems.

This form of environmental racism poses serious and disproportionate threats to the enjoyment of several human rights of its largely African American residents, including the right to life, the right to health, the right to an adequate standard of living and cultural rights, and U.S. federal environmental regulations have failed to protect African Americans' legal rights, the experts said.

On March 4, experts, including the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights at the Human Rights Council, issued a statement, saying that the emergency declarations by the U.S. government that authorize unilateral sanctions are resulting in severe human rights violations.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allows governments to suspend the protection of certain rights during emergencies only when the very existence of states is endangered, but U.S. emergencies often violate these rules, the experts said, urging the United States to refrain from imposing unilateral coercive measures on other countries on the grounds of a prolonged state of national emergency.

◆The U.S. "family separation" immigration policy forcibly separated children from their parents, seriously endangering immigrants' rights to life, dignity and freedom, among other human rights.

The infamous "family separation" immigration policy is the "zero-tolerance" policy for illegal entry into the United States announced by the Department of Justice. In April 2018, U.S. border enforcement officials sought to curb illegal border crossings by subjecting anyone who entered the country illegally to "detention, trial, and deportation" and relocation of their minor children, resulting in the separation of nearly 2,000 minors from their parents in less than two months. Media revealed images of immigrant children being held in "large cages" and recordings of them crying for their parents, saying that the children might face violent law enforcement and dilapidated temporary housing sites, making their physical and mental health a concern.

The perverse acts of the United States have triggered strong condemnation from the international community. Then Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray called the policy "cruel and inhumane." The El Salvador government called on the U.S. government to consider the protection of minors first rather than the immigration issue, and not to solve the immigration problem in a crude way that violates human rights. The Guatemalan government issued a statement calling on the United States to reconsider its immigration policy and protect the basic human rights of Guatemalan immigrants. The Honduran foreign ministry said that forcibly separating children from their parents would make them face judicial proceedings alone in a foreign country, which is inhumane.

In June 2018, the UN Human Rights Council issued a statement, saying that the U.S. immigration policy violated international human rights standards and might amount to "torture." UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that refugees and migrants should always be "treated with respect and dignity, and in accordance with existing international law." then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that the practice of child migrant separation may cause "irreparable harm" with "lifelong consequences," and "the thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable."

Under pressure, then U.S. President Trump signed an executive order in June 2018 to end the "family separation" policy, but continued to implement the "zero tolerance" policy detaining illegal immigrants and their minor children together. However, according to Manfred Nowak, who led a UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty published in November 2019, more than 100,000 children were held in migration-related detention in the United States in 2015, the latest figure his team could find, and in 2019 the United States held far more children than any other countries "for which he has reliable figures."

Till June 2021, the Biden administration had facilitated the reunification of only seven children with their parents, leaving 2,127 still separated from their parents, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The United States has not stopped its violations against immigrants' human rights, including the rights to life, dignity and liberty.

◆The United States coordinated the forced landing of the then Bolivian president's jet over suspicion of hiding Edward Snowden.

On July 2, 2013, the United States, suspecting that then Bolivian President Evo Morales was hiding Edward Snowden, coordinated with Italy, France, Spain and Portugal to ban the then Bolivian president's jet from their airspace, resulting in its forced landing in the Austrian capital Vienna, and a forced search until it was confirmed that Snowden was not on board.

Then Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra said that the U.S. government was behind the rumors that Morales was hiding Snowden, and that the rumors were "generated by the U.S. government."

Bolivia's air travel rights were violated, he said, adding that "it is an outrage. It is an abuse. It is a violation of the conventions and agreements of international air transportation."

Then Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino considered this "a huge offense," and said that he would call for a Union of South American Nations special summit with foreign secretaries to discuss this issue. The Cuban foreign ministry released a statement condemning the move, saying that "this unacceptable, unfounded and arbitrary act" offended all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

◆The United States and its allies have intervened in others' affairs under the name of humanitarianism, while their own human rights situation has deteriorated.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) issued comments on child labor issue in the United States in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2019 and 2020, repeatedly expressing concern about the large number of severe injuries to children working on farms in the country.

In 2014, the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) listed as one of the key country cases that the United States violated ILO Convention No. 182, (which requires countries to take immediate, effective and time-bound measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labor as a matter of urgency.)

Forced labor has been ubiquitous in the United States. On any given day in 2016, there were 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index published by the Walk Free Foundation, which also revealed that in 2016, of 1,067 potential labor trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the majority involved domestic work, agriculture and farm work, travelling sales crews, restaurant or food services, and health and beauty services, among others.

Regarding U.S. compliance with Convention No. 105 (Abolition of Forced Labor Convention), the CEACR noted in 2017 that "the committee strongly encouraged the government to strengthen its efforts to ensure that racial discrimination at the sentencing and other stages of the criminal justice process do not result in the imposition of racially disproportionate prison sentences involving compulsory labor," and that "the Committee urges the government to pursue its efforts to ensure the adoption of federal legislation to address this issue."

In Germany, the number of crimes committed by far-right extremists reached 23,064 in 2020, and anti-Semitic crimes increased by 16 percent, according to official statistics. In the European Union (EU), the gender pay gap stands at 14.1 percent and one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.

The EU has shirked its responsibility on refugee resettlement and has no regard for the human rights of refugees, and the fires in refugee camps in Greece are still fear-provoking. The EU border agencies refused to allow refugee boats to disembark, and even pushed refugees back into the sea in an outrageous move.

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