By Janet Phelan
A proliferation of human rights agencies now litter the political landscape. While these organizations and agencies profess to honor and protect human rights at large, a scrutiny of the activity of these international organizations indicates that they are highly tilted towards protecting and buttressing the agenda of the US, both at home and abroad.
I was recently asked to address a human rights conference in Atlanta, Georgia on the topic of what obstacles are encountered when one attempts to engage international human rights organizations. The idea of an American doing so is strange to many. Does not the US have its own mechanisms for dealing with human rights abuses?
WHY WOULD AN AMERICAN SEEK JUSTICE ABROAD?
On paper, indeed this is so. However, in practice we have found ourselves in a human rights crisis in the US that is of a considerable magnitude. The fact that the mainstream media veers away from reporting on this US human rights crisis does not in any way diminish its reality. As a result of this crisis, US citizens are having their most fundamental rights violated, and in many cases, losing not only their freedom, not only their property, but in many cases, losing their lives. Our press remains largely silent, averting its collective gaze.The US human rights crisis manifests itself in a number of ways. According to killedbypolice.net, police officers in the US killed 1194 people in 2017, up marginally from 1171 in 2016. It is rare that there is any culpability whatsoever for the involved officers.
When Kelly Thomas, a homeless and unarmed mentally ill man, was beaten to death by police officers in Fullerton, California in 2011, there was a public outcry. The involved officers did not incur any sentences and are now suing for reinstatement and back pay.
When police kill with impunity, they seem to target mostly people of color and the mentally ill.
The ongoing human rights crisis also impacts another demographic group, the elderly and disabled, whose property and civil rights are transferred to the care and protection of professional guardians, through probate court proceedings known as adult guardianships. The resultant thefts and untimely deaths attributed to these guardianships have prompted Congressional hearings and GAO reports, with little if any change.
The attack on the rights of the elderly is also bleeding onto the rights of those who would protect them. Concerned family members find themselves subject to restraining orders, which deny them the right to contact their loved ones, as well as gag orders, denying them the ability to speak freely about the deprivation of rights ongoing in probate court. Lawyers who attempt to protect the rights of the elderly in these proceedings are often disbarred. Many of these restraining order and gag order proceedings lack any semblance of due process and are often accomplished without a hearing, a clear violation of the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.
Equally, the ongoing human rights crisis also can be seen in child custody proceedings, where children with an “interesting” medical condition may be ripped from the care of their families and put into pharmaceutical trial programs, as human lab rats.
The ongoing human rights crisis also manifests in jailing or attempts at criminalization of whistleblowers and journalists such as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou and Karen Melton Stewart.
In another arena largely ignored or dismissed by the mainstream press, but now becoming too prevalent to ignore, the human rights crisis can be seen in the avalanche of reports coming from ordinary Americans who have been placed into non-consensual weapons testing programs, either with electronic weapons or chemical weapons testing.
These issues by their very nature should be dealt with by the US legal system. However, we are now experiencing a crisis in judicial integrity. Research indicates that judges, who generally have immunity for their actions on the bench, are apparently receiving bribes and payoffs in order to throw cases.
Due to this crisis in judicial integrity, more and more US citizens are seeking justice abroad. Indeed, an increasing number of US citizens are also seeking political asylum from the US. In 2016, over 300 US citizens applied for political asylum in other countries, according to the UNHCR. In a statistic which speaks multitudes for the reluctance of other countries to even admit that the US is abusing its citizens, only eleven of these applications were granted.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN US CITIZENS MAKE COMPLAINTS TO INTERNATIONAL ORGS?
There are structural problems that impact the success of US citizens trying to access justice through international mechanisms. For one, the US habitually declines to sign and ratify human rights treaties. This creates legal obstacles, as one cannot utilize a treaty which the nation in question does not subscribe to. In the rare instance when the US has both signed and ratified international human rights accords, such as in the case of the Convention Against Torture (CAT), it does so with legal “reservations,” which in essence gut any jurisdiction that an international body might have over the US. It should also be noted that the US does not honor the jurisdiction of the international court at The Hague nor the regional court in Costa Rica, which is attached to the Organization of American States and its treaties.
As noted, the US has signed and ratified the CAT, albeit with reservations. Pursuant to this, in 2016 a report on guardianship abuse was filed with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. The report alleged that many of the abuses inflicted on the elderly and disabled through guardianship achieved the official definition of torture and was buttressed by over eighty declarations from guardianship victims and lawyers. The report fell into a black hole. It was acknowledged as received by the UN and not one whit of a response was ever tendered.
Other reports of US human rights abuse are met with disinformation and downright untruths. An example of this is the US’s response to the cyclical Universal Periodic Review of human rights (UPR), wherein the UN every few years cycles through to review the human rights record of every participating country. In the review of the US in 2015, it was reported in New Eastern Outlook that the delegates from the US lied extensively to the international community.
In every instance where figures were cited and could thus be fact checked, the US lied. Concerning police abuse, the US told the international community that over 400 federal prosecutions of abusive police officers had been launched in the time period covered by the UPR. In fact, there were about a half dozen. Concerning federal hate crime prosecutions, the US lied to the international community and cited a figure of 200 federal prosecutions. An extensive legal review produced evidence of only 56. For a full dose of the US’s posturing at the UPR and the lackadaisical response by UN officials, you may read more here.
Often, people seeking justice abroad attempt to engage some of the larger and better known NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch, FIDH, Freedom House, Article 19, etc. The response of the international human rights organizations to American citizens is dismal at best, displaying a demonstrable “tilt” towards defending the rights of individuals in non-US aligned countries, such as Syria, Russia, China and certain Latin American countries. However, when American citizens file reports with these human rights NGOs they are routinely ignored.
According to reports, most if not all of these organizations receive funding from the US State Department. Some apparently receive support from the CIA.
IS THE IACHR RIDING SHOTGUN FOR US HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES?
Similar concerns surround the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is the human rights investigating arm of the Organization of American States. I personally know of two reports that have gone into the IACHR requesting Precautionary Measures for US citizens. One was mine, filed after I fled the US and was in Latin America, having survived a police assault by Long Beach police officers only to find collusion with the US by Latin American authorities. My request for Precautionary Measures, which is considered an emergency request and to be dealt with as such, was filed with the IACHR in 2016 and ignored for a year, until pressure was put on that agency by multiple human rights groups. At that point, my request for Precautionary Measures was dismissed with no investigation and no official reason given.
Another request for Precautionary Measures was filed with the IACHR for an elderly man under guardianship in California, Leon Bridges. Bridges was put under a guardianship in Los Angeles by Judge David Cowan, who had been informed by his own probate investigator that the grandson applying for guardianship had already stolen at least $80,000 from the elderly man. On being so informed, Cowan promptly assigned guardianship to the grandson. Bridges has virtually disappeared and other family members have stated they have no idea where he may be or if he is even still alive.
This request for Precautionary Measures has languished at the IACHR for over a year with no action taken.
Of special concern is that there are indications that the very same method for bribing and paying off US judges may also be in use to compromise IACHR Commissioners. A check was run on the mortgage profile for the former sole US lawyer sitting on the IACHR, Stanford law professor James Cavallaro. As previously reported, Cavallaro’s mortgage activity exploded upon his ascending to the IACHR.
The raw data, culled from the Santa Clara County Grantor Grantee index, is reproduced here. When this reporter went back into the index to retrieve further evidence and documents, she found that Cavallaro’s records had been entirely scrubbed and that no documents remained for public purview.
The international response to the US human rights crisis echoes similar mechanisms we see in the US. In the US there is no lack of laws and enforcement agencies. There is rather a selective failure to enforce existing laws.
Similarly, we see a failure of enforcement of international accords, due in part to the US’s failure to legally engage with protective human rights treaties. When the US does legally engage, we see a remarkable indifference, indeed aversion, evidenced by the international agencies and organizations to tackling the US’s abuses. There is not a lack of international accords, just as there is not a lack of domestic protective laws. There is instead a failure to enforce these accords. We also see the same mechanisms at play to corrupt international officials that have corrupted the US judiciary.
There are many who protest that the US should not engage in international treaties, that to do so is a relinquishment of sovereignty and an advancement of globalism. I submit that the globalist agenda is already in evidence and in effect and that the behavior by the so-called international human rights community confirms that there are underground guidelines at play which promote the US as the lead player in its agenda as the global mover and shaker. Any US citizen, human rights defender or journalist who gets in the way of the US is largely denied protection and is on her own.
The implications here point to an overwhelming shift in intentionality, away from the protection of individuals in targeted groups and towards their destruction. One might go so far as to state that the leader of the free world is, in fact, leading the pack towards a destination where human rights are an agreed upon charade and where the only right to be honored is that of power.
Or perhaps we are already there.
(*) Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking , EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad. You can follow her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012703457651