How the Ferguson Protests highlight America's own troubles with human rights

human rights in the United StatesOh, the irony. If there is one (out of the many) issues that the Ferguson Protests have shown us, it is the two sided coin of Human Rights in the United States. While the US prides and boasts itself as the champion and defender of human rights across the world, many international commentators and political figures are voicing the proposal that the US still has a lot more to do at home when it comes to protecting the rights of its citizens equally.

The United States is certainly not a genocidal dictatorship or regime on the same level as some other countries. But the United States loves to speak of itself as if it alone has the solution to all human rights issues across the globe, and often lectures other countries in ways to be a “democratic” society.

The Ferguson Protests has revealed that democracy and human rights are still hot issues for (supposedly) the world’s leading democracy. The violence unleashed against demonstrators in Ferguson has gotten rough. The violence has gotten so rough, that International organizations and figures are speaking out.

Amnesty International has condemned the actions of the police against protesters in Ferguson, calling US authorities “dictators” for silencing protesters. UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon called for a “protection of rights” for Ferguson’s protesters. Even the politicians of foreign countries are weighing in.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Egypt called out police actions in Ferguson, mimicking statements that were made by the US government toward Egypt during the recent revolutionary upheaval. Other countries such as Russia, China, and Iran have used the opportunity to chide and call out the US for their constant high-strung mantras about human rights.

The Twitter of account of Iran’s Ayatollah Khamanei began blasted tweet after tweet criticizing the actions of the Ferguson Police, and using the issue to highlight America’s dual-natured attitude when it comes to the rights of its citizens. China’s state-run Xinhua network criticized the US, wasting no time in chiding the American criticisms of China’s human rights record. More recently, a member of Russia’s parliament made a statement of being “deeply concerned” about the situation in Ferguson and called for an “International Intervention” to stop the violence.

Of course, much of the criticism from those countries is very disingenuous. In no way will I pretend that Russia, China, Iran, or even Egypt are truly concerned about the protesters in Ferguson. Obviously these countries are using the opportunity to make the US government look bad (for good reason). So in no way do I take the criticisms by those nations seriously. However, I do believe that their chastising is somewhat warranted.

The US spends a lot of its time criticizing human rights issues of nations it is at odds with geopolitically. What frustrates nations like China and Russia is not necessarily just the fact that the US regularly calls out their human rights abuses, but is that the US only calls them out because of global politics. The US supports and has supported many countries that have horrible human rights records. Take Saudi Arabia (as just one strong and current example).

The Saudi government is an absolute monarchy with complete dictatorial powers. It operates as a monarchial Islamic theocracy, with a very bad record of human rights. Yet, Saudi Arabia is one of our greatest allies in the world and we continue to maintain good ties in spite of their human rights abuses.

What Ferguson has revealed is an extra layer of irony. Not only does the US selectively criticize human rights abuses on the international state, but does so on the home front as well. Of course, America’s right-wing amplified a double layer of irony. Remember Cliven Bundy?

There was a guy who blatantly broke the law, and then had armed men rally to him, openly threatening to shoot ANY police or government official trying to enforce the laws that Bundy was breaking. An armed gang threatened open warfare if Bundy was encroached upon at all. If any situation called for APCs and military gear, it was then. Of course, nothing happened to Bundy, and instead the military hardware and heavy crackdown was unleashed upon the peaceful protesters of Ferguson, Missouri.

Human Rights is a complicated issue. What Ferguson has highlighted is that the US still has its own issues with rights among its population. The United States is not a police-state yet, but still has many underlying issues when it comes to equal protection under the law by police and similar authorities.

While nations like Russia, China, Iran etc. have no moral high ground to criticize the US over the Ferguson situation, that does not  throw out the valid argument that the US is not always an innocent actor when it comes to human rights. In fact, a UN Human Rights Committee found 25 violations of human rights in the United States. The problem is bigger than many think.

While as disingenuous as some criticism is, the US State Department has once again reinforced the snobbishness of America’s attitude on foreign critics of its domestic affairs. The State Department has rebuked all international critics of the Ferguson Protest crackdown, clinging to the same mantras as usual. Remember, the first step to fixing any problem (great or small) is admitting there is one. The question is: have we reached a point where America collectively sees the problem?


  1. Puerto Rico is the best example of the United States government’s record on human rights

    Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States (US) government for the past 116 years. The United Nations (UN) declared colonialism a crime against humanity in 1960. The UN has issued thus far 33 resolutions asking the US government to immediately decolonize Puerto Rico. In other words, those 33 resolutions are the democratic will of the UN. Therefore, the US government has thus far ignored the democratic will of the UN. Furthermore, it has held, against heavy international pressure, Puerto Rico’s political prisoner of 33 years, Oscar López Rivera.

    All nations have the inalienable right to self-determination and independence as a basic human right. Because of this, all colonized people have the right, under international law, to use all means necessary to decolonize themselves. That means that the criminal, with regards to Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States, is the US government, and not Oscar López Rivera. Therefore, the US government has violated for the past 116 years the human rights of about 4 million people on the island of Puerto Rico!

    The US government has used state terrorism to maintain Puerto Rico as its colony. Again, the best example of this is Oscar’s 33 years of imprisonment. This is more than the 27 years that Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. It is also important to note that 12 of those years were in solitary confinement. That length of time is another human rights violation.

    The US government keeps this in the closet to conceal it. That way, the US government could then charge other nations of human rights violations. Obviously, the US government has no problem with human right violations, since it violates them all the time at home. Its only interest in making these human right charges is to control the affairs of other countries in order to obtain financial benefits of interest to the 1% for whom the US government works for.

    José M López Sierra

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