When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, our nation suffered horrendous losses. The loss of innocent lives remains one of the greatest travesties our nation has endured. Changes began rapidly. We lost many of the principals and morals which once made our nation great. Can we recover what was lost? Can we reverse the effects of the 9/11 aftermath and cease violations of human rights?
Fear is the most devastating emotion a human being can experience. Fear provokes justification for actions which we would normally condemn if committed by another nation. Fear makes us weak and easily controlled. After 9/11 our government kept us in fear as they committed immoral and illegal actions.
Before the Bush Administration invaded two countries after lying to the American people, and began programs of torture and human degradation, Congress passed the Patriot Act. Under the guise of protecting our country from future terrorist attacks, our safeguards under the fourth amendment were removed from the Constitution. Now 13 years later, the United States has been condemned by the United Nations for human rights violations, both at home and abroad.
The UN report not only covered military interrogations and the practice of torture, it also included policies regarding inmate executions, and police brutality.
The ten person panel revealed a disproportionate number of arrests, frequently involving force, of blacks, immigrants, and the LGBT community. The United States is one of 156 nations which ratified the Convention Against Torture. The ten-person panel pointed to racial profiling by police and immigration officers. It also questioned the increased militarization of police.
The panel recommended that authorities investigate and prosecute offenders and change laws redefining what is torture and harassment of detained individuals. The panel also called for a reevaluation of the situation in Guantanamo Bay, which President Obama vowed to close in 2008.
The panel also recommended that we accelerate the execution process in our nation’s prisons. Forcing inmates to remain on death row for multiple years was deemed as cruel and unusual punishment. It also questioned recent executions when the prisoner lingered during the process which should be quick and humane.
Mary McLeod is acting as Legal Counsel for the United States Department of State. She told the UN panel that Washington accepts full responsibility for the alleged missteps, and that our government overreacted after 9/11. She also recognized the need for increased transparency and accountability.
This panel’s report was released just days after a Missouri grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson; it was not mentioned in the report.
However, Michael Brown’s parents met with the panel in Geneva behind closed doors.
Mistreatment and harassment of young black people by predominately white police officers in undeniable. And it is rare that a grand jury will indict a police officer for actions occurring during his time on duty.
Clashes between police and those in primarily ethnic or racial communities is on the rise. Communication and a more inclusive training program are the only possible remedies.
Anger is the result of fear; the greater the fear, the greater the anger. The sad situations which occurred in Ferguson after the grand jury’s decision were avoidable, but not by actions taken in the present. When Trevon Martin and Michael Brown were killed the aftermath was not entirely about them. It was about decades of deaths of black men and women at the hands of the authorities.
By James Turnage