Friday, March 24, 2017
by Lauren Carasik
and Margaret Drew
The Trump administration’s failure to appear at the Inter-American Commission hearings signaled a deep disrespect for the dignity and experiences of the people whose rights were the topic of discussion. Many affected parties came to the hearings at considerable expense and inconvenience expecting, at a minimum, to present their grievances in a forum where the US would have to engage. They arrived to find that the Trump administration had decided not to participate,ostensibly due to ongoing litigation, a decision communicated to the Commission the previous day though the hearings had been long scheduled. For those affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline, this is not the first time that the Trump team has acted with disrespect. On February 7, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault flew to Washington to meet with administration officials, expecting to share the Tribe’s concerns before the Army Corps of Engineers reached a final decision on the easement necessary to complete the pipeline. But he learned after deplaning that the decision had been made to issue the easement while he was en route to the meeting. The issuance of the permit before the administration’s meeting with the Tribal Chairman laid bare that the planned discussion was intended for optics rather than substance, and signaled clearly to Archambault that even if he had been afforded the opportunity to be heard, his perspective would have been inconsequential and his time poorly spent. Such disdain has deep historical roots. The administration’s refusal to participate in the hearings is yet another brazen act of dismissing the voices of those harmed by its policies. Even if Trump officials declined to comment on topics that are the subject of ongoing litigation, they could have respectfully shown up to listen. The administration’s absence deprived the speakers of a significant portion of the intended audience and conveyed the administration's indifference to their plight. But the hearings went on anyway, and thanks to activists and advocates who amplified the voices of the aggrieved, the casualty is neither their dignity nor their stories but the administration’s credibility and stature instead.
[Editors' Note: This blog is part of our symposium series on the Administration's failure to participate in the IACHR hearing on March 21. The other postings, by Deborah Weissman, Sarah Paoletti, and JoAnn Kamuf Ward, respectively, are here, here and here. Tara Melish comments here, and Rick Wilson's comments are here.]