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US Reports on UNSC Allies, French Roma But No Spying, Palestine Not Listed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 -- While the UN Security Council on Thursday morning held a closed-door "private" meeting, 200 miles south Secretary of State John Kerry was releasing the US' annual Human Rights Report with lists among countries and areas Western Sahara and Kosovo, but not Palestine.

  (There's a report on "Israel and The Occupied Territories.")

  Both Western Sahara and Kosovo, for example, are on the agenda of the UN Security Council, unlike Sri Lanka, and so Inner City Press thought it'd be a good time to look at the US' assessment of its allies on the Council.

  Just last week, Inner City Press asked State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf about abuse in a detention camp on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea for people who'd sought asylum in Australia.

  And today's US report says, of Australia, "the main human rights problems reported were.. discrimination against indigenous people; and policies affecting asylum seekers, including lengthy detention and austere detention center conditions for some arriving to Australia by sea."

   Now "austere" includes being beaten to death, as happened in Manus Island.

  Of big US ally France, which was criticized on January 20 by UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay for selective disarmament putting Muslims communities at risk of attack in the Central African Republic, the US report says:

"The most significant human rights problems during the year included an increasing number of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents. There also were government evictions of Roma from illegal camps and overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in prisons, compounded by problems in the judicial system, including lengthy pretrial detention and protracted investigations and trials. Other human rights problems reported included instances of excessive use of force by police, societal violence against women, and trafficking in persons."

  The US report notes as it must, even beyond Morocco reportedly described as France's "mistress," the country's explicitly colonial holdings, which are still extensive:

"Four overseas territories in French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and La Reunion have the same political status as the 22 metropolitan regions and 101 departments on the mainland. Five divisions are overseas 'collectivities': French Polynesia, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna. New Caledonia is a special overseas collectivity with a unique, semi autonomous status between an independent country and an overseas department. Mayotte became the 101st department in 2011."

  And what about discrimination? What about France's "unique" approach to (non) freedom of the press?

  Of ally South Korea, homeland of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the US says "the primary human rights problems reported were the government’s interpretation of the National Security Law (NSL) and other laws to limit freedom of expression and restrict access to the internet, and the jailing of conscientious objectors to military service...The government also restricted workers’ rights and interfered with the right to strike."

   Well. Even Lithuania, which just finished up its month as Security Council president without holding a single question and answer stakeout, comes in for this critique: "Some prisons continued to be overcrowded and in poor condition, and lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. There were open manifestations of intolerance, including xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and identity. Roma continued to live in poor conditions in areas of high crime facing social exclusion and discrimination. Additional problems included interference with the privacy of persons, [and] libel and antidiscrimination laws that limited freedom of expression."

  Among the lightest criticism in the US report is for Luxembourg: "Due to a high level of asylum requests, the government was slow to adjudicate asylum claims. Other human rights problems reported during the year included cases of domestic violence against women and allegations of trafficking, primarily of women, for sexual exploitation."

  Of the special relationship with the UK, there's no mention of spying for example or the case against David Miranda. Instead the US says:

"During the year there were significant reported incidences of sexual crimes, including the sexual exploitation of children, rape, and domestic violence. Hate crimes, based on factors including race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability were a serious problem, and both the British Crime Survey and a Northern Ireland Policing Board report suggested such crimes were underreported. There were also reported incidences of child labor and trafficking in persons in the UK and in Anguilla and Montserrat. Other human rights problems included mistreatment of prisoners in the women’s and youths’ prisons in Northern Ireland, 'heavy-handed' tactics by police in round-ups of illegal immigrants, some cases of forced or early marriage, anti-Semitic crimes, discrimination against Travellers (a distinct ethnic group with its own history and culture), different legal age for consensual sex for gays and lesbians in Bermuda, reported deaths in prison, unequal pay for equal work between women and men, and limitations on the right to strike."

  In his prepared remarks releasing the Human Rights Report, Secretary of State Kerry said, "We will do it in Sri Lanka, where the government still has not answered basic demands for accountability and reconciliation, where attacks on civil society activists, journalists, and religious minorities, sadly, still continue. Our concern about this ongoing situation has led the United States to support another UN Human Rights Council resolution at the March session."

  But when BBC America got its chance to interview acting Assistant Secretary of State Uzra Zeya, after she raised Syria and North Korea, the BBC America anchor asked only about Ukraine, whether it could have been foreseen. And so it goes. Watch this site.


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