Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

America's Double Standard

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

America's Double Standard

Article excerpt

Sen. Jesse Helms has complained that a representative of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) recently was allowed to make a fact-finding visit to the US to examine the use of the death sentence in American courts.

The senator views the visit as a gross example of UN "malfeasance and incompetence," illustrating why the UN is allegedly looked upon with "such disdain" by the American people.

These views raise serious questions about this country's adherence to international law. The issue isn't the merits of the death penalty, nor statements critical of the quality of justice in death penalty cases attributed to the UN visitor. Many Americans, I suspect, have similar questions. The issue is whether the US is prepared to hold itself to the same international measures of review and cooperation - be it in the field of human rights or other areas of multilateral cooperation - it expects from others. In the case of human rights, the US inspired many of the standards that today are held as international law. We apply these standards rigorously, sometimes at the expense of other dimensions of our bilateral relations with nations. Why, then, should we balk when an international body seeks to examine our own practices? Are we above the law? Is our sovereignty so fragile that it can't bear the weight of what we ask of others? Having served the US as a foreign service officer for nearly 30 years, including three stints as ambassador, I often dealt with claims of double standards made by those who were stung by our criticism of their human rights record. In good conscience, I defended the integrity of our policy, both as universal and as one grounded in the rule of law. Now I must ask: How many despots will hide behind our own foot-dragging to avoid international scrutiny and accountability? America risks tossing all to the winds under the onslaught of unilateralists in Congress who, all too often, hold the administration hostage with all-or-nothing demands on so many international issues. …

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