Time for US to focus on internal law and order rather than worrying about others?
By: Anup Sinha
The United States is often referred to as the ‘champion of democracy and human rights’. But over the past two decades, as it has transformed into a multicultural society, the United States has faced numerous domestic human rights problems, including institutionalized racism, hate crimes, and extrajudicial killings by criminals and law enforcement.
Numerous statistics show an alarming increase in gun-related violence, including extrajudicial executions and hate crimes, as well as systematic violations of human rights. Hate crimes, extrajudicial killings, and police violence are daily problems in American society. Additionally, the government is failing to introduce or formulate effective policies. There is a pervasive culture of impunity for extrajudicial killings. The ‘champion’ is seen struggling at home lately.
The concerns of the US and its Western allies about global human rights are well known. The United States has recently raised concerns about human rights, extrajudicial killings and political disappearances in Bangladesh. Among these, it is important to keep the news of the US house. A Bangladeshi man was shot dead by miscreants in the Missouri state of United States of America (USA) early Wednesday. This is not the first-time armed men have attacked the United States. The incident took place at 3:30am (Bangladesh time) and it is believed that the motive behind the crime was to rob the victim’s car and cash. The deceased was identified as Romim Uddin Ahmed, aged 22, originally from the Mirsaraiupazila in Chittagong district.
According to media report, Romim was working at the gas station when a group of miscreants tried to break into his parked car. When Romim intervened, a gunman targeted him and fired. He was later taken to the hospital by the police, where he was declared dead, he said. The police are currently looking for a 19-year-old suspect named Jatavian Scott in connection with the incident, he added. However, Romim Uddin Ahmed can be represented as a symbol of the sufferers of the US dire law and security situation disorder.
Earlier in this year, a young man from the Bangladeshi community, Arif Saeed Faisal living abroad was shot dead by the police in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Then, many termed the death of Faisal, the family’s only child, as a ‘racist act by white police officers’.
On May 24 last year, blood was shed once again in the United States. An 18-year-old named Salvador Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers. After the incident at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Border Patrol agents shot and killed the teenager before police arrived. In other words, another extrajudicial killing took place. A gunman has been shot dead by police near a school in Toronto, Canada, shortly after a shooting at an elementary school in Texas. These are examples of extrajudicial executions that have taken place in the United States and Canada. Both countries are known in the world for their advanced human rights laws.
Such incidents often occur in the United States. Ten people were killed in a shooting at a superstore in Buffalo, New York in May last year, the BBC and AFP reported. In 2012, a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, killing 20 children and six others. Last year, there were 26 such shootings in the United States. In 2020, shootings will surpass road accidents as the leading cause of death for children and teenagers.
According to the Washington Post, an average of 1,000 people is killed by the police in the United States every year. In 2022 alone, the number of police killings in the United States was 1,944, which is one of the top 10 countries in the world. In addition, according to the police violence report, the number of people killed by the police in the United States in 2020 is 1 thousand 124. However, only 16 officers have been registered in the case of these murders. The US think tank ‘Mapping Police’ has shown in a report that international human rights law includes obligations to investigate, prosecute and provide reparations in cases of unlawful use of force by state agencies. But from 2013 to 2020, nearly 99 percent of the killings committed by the police were not held accountable.
This US concern about human rights and democracy is certainly positive for the consolidation of human rights of people in third world countries. But is there a chance to see this struggle of the United States in the establishment of democracy and human rights from a neutral point of view? On the opposite side of the headache of the United States in protecting human rights, the United States has its own interests and various strategies to fulfill them.
For decades, the US has killed thousands of civilians in bloody wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to fight terrorism, protect human rights and establish democracy. In addition, there are numerous accusations against the US of white supremacy, gun violence and serious human rights violations.
For years, the United States has waged wars in various countries around the world in the name of fighting terrorism. It has killed more civilians than counter-terrorism, increased the number of refugees, created new factions and continued civil war for years. According to Brown University’s Cost of War Project’s ground-breaking report, the US has spent an estimated eight trillion dollars on the ‘War on Terror’ project, killing more than 900,000 people and displacing millions. The enormous burden imposed on people’s lives and economy has led to the creation of new militant organizations every year, in addition to the reorganization of various armed organizations, including Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Taliban, instead of eradicating terrorism. In the name of national security and the war on terror, the United States has spread a web of global human rights abuses for decades.
The United States continues to kill suspected terrorists in these countries, including Yemen and Somalia, many of them through drone strikes. On September 30, 2011, an Obama-ordered drone strike in Yemen killed radical religious leader and al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. The man was the first US citizen to be the victim of ‘target killing’ in US drone strikes. That day the man was ‘extrajudicially killed’ in defiance of all constitutional processes. At least 10 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a drone attack in Kabul in September 2021. From 2010 to 2020, drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have killed at least 16,000 people, including more than 2,000 civilians.
Racial and racial discrimination is an inherent feature of American society. Black citizens in the country have been victims of terrible discrimination for a long time. Black African Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans, according to the Washington Post. However, the number of blacks in the United States is less than 14 percent of the total population. The United Nations cited it as an ‘example of slavery and racial segregation’.
The United States has always been vocal about free press and freedom of expression. But everyone knows about the cruel fate of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks in the country. The US crackdown on Assange has hampered free journalism and the free flow of information there.
The killing of Bangladeshi Ramim and Faisal by police after the suffocation of black man George Floyd—sets a precedent for extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the United States. The time has come for the United States to focus on improving its own internal law and order rather than worrying about the protection of democracy and human rights in other countries.
Any extrajudicial execution is wrong. Such extrajudicial killings occur in many countries. But the US lacks the courage to take such steps there. It is right to argue that countries like the US or Canada should now examine themselves in the light of recent events. It is past time to change the lens through which they see the human rights situation in Bangladesh. When the United States itself violates human rights, it loses its ability to supervise others in the same way.
The writer is a researcher and freelance columnist specializing in South Asian Affairs with a particular focus on the Rohingya issue, India-Bangladesh relations, water sharing, etc. He has an MSS degree in International Relations from the University of Dhaka.