The United States and the Human Rights Practice

When the United Nations proclaimed and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948, the United States of America was one of the nations to lead in it and has claimed international leadership in the field of human rights. The Americans were proud that their history is based on the recognition of these principles, many of which are held on documents of national significance, and for which they see themselves as the foremost bearers of human rights.

The United States, however, is now being criticized for its lack of adherence to the principles set in the Declaration. While there is no question that it embraces Human Rights principles, the United States, as well as other countries, is being scrutinized for practices that are against the Declaration, a point which makes it apparent that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not enough to reflect the global commitment to Human Rights.

The United States Declaration of Independence recognized that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” principles that are also part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The American people firmly believed in such principles that for decades they have been the foremost proponents of Human Rights. Global maturity to morality, however, had made many to scrutinize its practices that concern human’s rights. Amnesty International (1999) held that “The USA is failing to deliver the fundamental promise of rights for all.

” While the United States has done its fair share in upholding the equality of all men and the protection of liberties of nations, it is criticized for shortcomings in realizing these concepts to the fullest and that some of its policies and laws are criticized as against the principles of human rights. Shah Anup (2002) stated that “police brutality in the US has been a known problem” and, according to Amnesty International (1999), “those responsible for law enforcement… are regularly breaching their own laws and guidelines as well as international human rights standards.

” Amnesty International has enumerated some of these violations including, but not limited to, the beating and shooting of unresisting suspects; the misuse of batons, chemical sprays and electro-shock weapons; the placing of prisoners in solitary confinement for extended periods; the lack of response to physical and mental conditions that prisoners suffers from; the use of degrading treatment or torture to prisoners; and the sexual abuse of prisoners, especially female.

The death penalty is another subject of concern for human rights advocates which is still being practiced in the United States, despite the worldwide trend towards its abolition. Abolitionists held that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, which is in turn an irreversible violation on human’s rights. Since the 1990, more than 350 prisoners have been executed in the United States, and around 3,500 are still awaiting execution.

The United States is also being criticized for its non-ratification or ratification with reservation of international covenants that concerns human rights. Some of these covenants include the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Amnesty International, 1999). The United States have also failed to join in any of the major International Labor Organizations (Stork, 1999).

On the other hand, Amnesty International (1999) also reported that “when the USA ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), it reserved the right to impose capital punishment on people convicted of a crime committed when they were children. ” The United States has also rejected the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD) provision to determine whether laws and practices are discriminatory (Stork, 1999).

The United States have also held that international covenants on human rights are not self-executing but rather required specific implementing legislation. This implies that while the United States have ratified some of these covenants, its citizens cannot claim protection using the covenants without the proper local or national legislation supporting them, and the United States have failed to introduce such enabling legislation. It is therefore apparent that while ratifying some of the international covenants on human rights, it has been rendered futile.

While claiming that it is the foremost proponent of human rights, the United States has failed to uphold, or at least have failed to fully realize, the concepts which have been agreed upon by members of the United Nations through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Other countries have also been criticized for such failures. But while it could be argued whether or not these countries are doing anything to comply with the ideas of the Declaration or to the provisions of international covenants that concerns human rights, one must admit that there are a lot to be done for the principles stated in the Declaration to be fully realized.

Furthermore, with the United States Government’s claim the international covenants are not self-executing, it could be concluded that the Declaration or the ratification of these international covenants on human rights are not credible reflections of global commitment to human rights.


Amnesty International. (1999). “1999 UN Commission on Human Rights. Making human rights work: Time to strengthen the special procedures. ” Retrieved October 14, 2008 from http://www. amnesty.

org/en/library/asset/IOR41/001/1999/en/dom-IOR410011999en. html#TUS. Anup, S. (2002). “The USA and Human Rights. ” Retrieved October 14, 2008 from http://www. globalissues. org/article/139/the-usa-and-human-rights. Stork, J. (1999). “Human Rights and U. S. Policy. ” Retrieved October 14, 2008 from http://www. fpif. org/briefs/vol4/v4n08hrts. html United States Congress. (1776). “United States Declaration of Independence. ” United Nations General Assembly. (1948). “Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ”