What incident put your core values to the test?
WASHINGTON - (AD) - The following is a post by Tom Malinowski, director of the Department of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the US State Department, which appeared on DipNote, the official US State Department blog, on September 6, 2014.
The fatal shots at Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and what followed, understandably attracted international attention. Like many Americans, many people around the world, who see the United States as an advocate of freedom and the rule of law, wondered whether the law enforcement response to the demonstrations there was justified. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke for many friends of the United States when he urged the Missouri authorities to "ensure that freedom of assembly and expression are protected" and "American and international standards are upheld."
Others with less fair human rights records reacted more opportunistically. "The United States should focus on solving its own problems rather than pointing the finger at others," said the Chinese news agency Xinhua to restore their own country before imposing their dubious experiences on other countries ”. Egypt urged the United States to respect freedom of assembly. From the Twitter account, which experts believe is operated by the office of the spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the message came: "The flag of #human rights is carried by the enemies of human rights, led by the USA!"
The United States believes that every government has an obligation to uphold the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to live by those values in its own country. In this sense, we criticize governments that suppress freedom of expression and assembly. And we expect other countries to measure us against the standards that we require them to adhere to. Our commitment to human rights abroad is not based on a sense of moral superiority. Americans don't pretend their country is perfect. Rather, our history reflects our striving - striving for equal opportunities, justice and respect for all people, regardless of their skin color, their beliefs and their social status, as well as for - as our constitution expresses - a more perfect union.
The real measure of a rights-honoring, democratic society, however, is the way it reacts when its core values are put to the test. Americans continue to debate the right and wrong of what happened in Ferguson, and this debate in itself is a sign of the strength of our democracy. This is how we rise to the challenge and we will overcome it in a way that does justice to the values that we advocate abroad.
We facilitate the rectification of grievances in the United States in part through the right to peacefully assemble, for example to protest. Under US law, authorities can place restrictions on the time, place, and type of demonstrations. For example, conditions can be stipulated for a demonstration that is to take place in the middle of the street and thus significantly impede the flow of traffic, or for a noisy gathering that is to take place at night in a residential area. In general, however, in the United States, there is no need to obtain prior consent to solicit passers-by signatures, distribute leaflets, carry signs, and express your opinions publicly. Large demonstrations in public places sometimes require prior approval, but the authorities are not allowed to refuse approval just because they do not share the demonstrators' views.
In Ferguson there was considerable tension between police and protesters. Many Americans felt that police forces armed with too many military weapons had used too much force to break up the crowds; in some cases the protesters also became violent. The local and state authorities then appointed a new line of law enforcement and changed their tactics. The demonstrations continued without violence and disproportionate restrictions. Across the country, from the streets of Ferguson to the gates of the White House, Americans continue to gather and discuss what should happen next.
We also uphold freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Although some of the footage from Ferguson was unsettling, it was not held back. When some journalists were arrested in the course of the demonstrations, these measures were immediately made public and widely condemned. President Obama said: "Our constitutional rights to freely express our opinions, to assemble freely, and to report in the press must be carefully protected, especially at times like these."
The United States is committed to justice, non-discrimination and equality before the law. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson and the US Department of Justice opened a federal criminal investigation into the civil rights violation of Michael Brown's death. As the Justice Minister assured, the federal investigation into the fatal shots will be conducted fairly, thoroughly and independently of the investigations of the local authorities. Should the Justice Department find that there has been police misconduct, it will hold the relevant authorities accountable.
The Justice Department has also opened an investigation into allegations of illegal police controls by the City of Ferguson Police Department to determine whether there has been a systematic violation of the Constitution and federal law. The Ministry of Justice will also work with local authorities to assess whether and how issues such as training, the use of force, handling large-scale demonstrations, controls, and fair and impartial policing can be better managed.
In particular, freedom of expression and assembly are protected in a leadership climate that encourages calm, objective analysis and open debate across the country. President Obama and other political leaders have not reflexively sided with or against law enforcement. They focus on ensuring a fair investigation while guaranteeing the right of everyone to assemble for peaceful protest.
As the situation in Ferguson evolves, we Americans will ask of ourselves what we ask of others. Without arrogance and without apologizing for it, we will continue to urge the greatest possible respect for human rights worldwide. We will point out that Chinese journalists who have been able to freely broadcast pictures of peaceful demonstrations in the United States in their homeland should be allowed to do the same from Tibet and Xinjiang. We will call on the Russian government to allow its citizens to demonstrate against police repression instead of sentencing the victims of these incidents to years of imprisonment. We will continue to call on Egypt to bring security forces who shoot unarmed demonstrators to justice, rather than mass trials of political opponents to death. We simply call on the Iranian leadership, who spread their criticism of the United States on Twitter, to allow ordinary Iranians to use Twitter without fear of persecution.
We wish the tragic events in Ferguson had never happened. We also want governments to respond to similar events with the same determination to protect the rights and freedoms of their citizens. The world would be a better place then.
Original text: Ferguson and International Human Rights
Of America Service | September 6, 2014 | Categories: America Service
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