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Context of 'April 23, 1999: Commission on Human Rights Condemns the Unilateral Use of Economic Sanctions'

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A Historical Clarification Commission report concludes that US-supported Guatemalan security forces had been responsible for most of the human rights abuses that occurred during that country’s decade-long civil war, including torture, kidnapping and the murder of thousands of rural Mayans. These findings contradict years of US official denial. The commission estimates over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed in the civil war, the most brutal armed conflict in Latin America history. [Washington Post, 3/11/1999; Commission for the Historical Clarification, 4/2000]

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, US-Guatemala (1901-2002)

The Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 1999/21, condemns the unilateral use of economic sanctions, urging “all States to refrain from adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, in particular those of a coercive nature with extraterritorial effects, which create obstacles to trade relations among States, thus impeding the full realization of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular the right of individuals and peoples to development.” [United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 4/23/1999; South-North Development Monitor (SUNS), 12/21/1999]

Entity Tags: Commission on Human Rights

Timeline Tags: Neoliberalism and Globalization

Taliban fighters killed in the battle for Qala-i-Janghi fortress.Taliban fighters killed in the battle for Qala-i-Janghi fortress. [Source: CNN/House of War]UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, joins Amnesty International (see November 27, 2001 and December 5, 2001) in a call for an investigation of killings at Qala-i-Jhangi. [Agence France-Presse, 12/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Mary Robinson

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Executive directors of human rights groups write to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice asking that the US provide human rights monitors access to US prisoners and detention facilities in Iraq to verify conditions of detention. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

UN Human Rights Council logo.UN Human Rights Council logo. [Source: China Human Rights Net]The Obama administration announces that the US will seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The Bush administration had chosen not to participate in the council, saying that it would not countenance the influence of nations who repress their populations. “Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the UN human rights system.… We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.” Elections for three seats on the 47-member council will take place in May. The other countries on the ballot are Belgium and Norway. New Zealand agreed to withdraw from the ballot in favor of the US candidacy; New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, explained, “Frankly, by any objective measure, membership of the council by the US is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them.” A human rights advocate tells the Washington Post: “This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective. I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.” Human rights activists have pressured the US to join the council since its inception in March 2006. The council took the place of the UN’s Human Rights Commission, which lost credibility when it allowed nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe to join and thus thwart criticism of their treatment of their citizens. Bush officials had refused to join the new body, saying that they did not believe the new organization represented any improvement over its predecessor. Then-US ambassador to the UN John Bolton explained that the US would have more “leverage in terms of the performance of the new council” by not participating in it and thus signaling a rejection of “business as usual.” Bolton says of the Obama administration’s decision: “This is like getting on board the Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg. This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn’t deserve legitimacy.” Obama officials concede that the council has failed to do its job adequately, and focused too much on abuse allegations by Israel to the exclusion of allegations against nations such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice says: “Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the council to be balanced and credible.” The US intends to join the council “because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.” [Washington Post, 3/31/2009]

Entity Tags: United Nations Human Rights Council, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Hillary Clinton, Obama administration, Murray McCully, John R. Bolton, United Nations Human Rights Commission

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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