The Multilateralist

How committed is the U.S. to the UN human rights system?

Mark Leon Goldberg calls out the Obama administration for playing a double game with the UN’s human rights system: The UN’s Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez is once again criticizing the Obama administration over its handling of the accused Wikileaker Bradly Manning’s detention.  Mendez has been told that he can interview Bradley Manning, who is ...

Mark Leon Goldberg calls out the Obama administration for playing a double game with the UN’s human rights system:

The UN’s Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez is once again criticizing the Obama administration over its handling of the accused Wikileaker Bradly Manning’s detention.  Mendez has been told that he can interview Bradley Manning, who is in a military prison in Kansas, but that his conversation would be monitored by prison authorities.  This violates longstanding rules relating to the unfettered access of prisoners by UN human rights officials….

Consider this: Last month, the United Nations Human Rights Council authorized an investigation into alleged human rights abuses stemming from the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters. The United States pushed hard for this resolution–and rightly so. So far, though, Syrian authorities have not been allowed to enter Syria. But what if Damascus relented on its opposition to admitting the UN investigators, but only on the condition that all of their interviews are monitored by government minders?

Obviously such conditions would not make the investigation credible.  The United States should be leading by example. Instead, the Obama administration seems to want it both ways: unfettered access for human rights monitors abroad while placing restrictions on them at home.

The administration’s engagement at the UN Human Rights Council has been smart and effective. But as I’ve argued before, it’s really not clear that the U.S. believes it has much to learn from the system it’s touting. As far as I know, the administration didn’t say anything when the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing asked for more detail on the bin Laden raid. And the American submission as part of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review was mostly boilerplate that left to one side really tough issues (like targeted killing via drone strikes or investigations of past interrogation tactics). The Obama administration has won plaudits for engaging in multilateral fora that the Bush administration shunned.  But a cynic could convincingly argue that the Bush administration was simply more honest about its belief that the U.S. has little to learn from these international processes.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola