Tuesday, May 21, 2019
On May 17, the European Union issued its annual report on human rights and democracy worldwide, including a section surveying developments in the U.S. from the E.U. perspective. While there are a few bright spots -- for example,Washington State's abolition of the death penalty -- most of the news is alarming. The report notes the Trump Administration's disengagement from human rights institutions and the difficulty that the EU has had in initiating a consistent dialogue with the administration around these issues. The EU report identifies the administration's family separation policy and the further limitation of refugee admissions as additional human rights low-points. Further, the E.U. notes, the Administration has backed away from plans to close Guantanamo.
The report chronicles in some detail the E.U.'s active efforts to curtail the death penalty in the U.S., including a number of state-level interventions. In at least one case in which the E.U. weighed in, a Governor commuted a sentence to life imprisonment.
The E.U. report includes some important lessons for U.S. human rights activists. A significant aspect of human rights is its universality. The engagement of the E.U. in chronicling U.S. back-sliding brings home the power that U.S. activists can gain from framing domestic issues in human rights terms. In addition, the E.U. critique demonstrates that the current Administration can run, but it can't hide. While it may resign from UN bodies and refuse to cooperate with UN Human Rights monitors, many of the human rights issues facing the U.S. are in plain sight, and the U.S. will continue to be criticized for them until it begins to take human rights seriously.