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The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002 (Part One)(04/03/03)




The Information Office of the State Council on Thursday released a report entitled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002."
Following is a summary of the document:
The US State Department released the "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002" on March 31, when the United States is facing condemnation from people of various countries in the world for unilaterally launching a war against Iraq.
With the United States pretending to be "the world's judge of human rights," the reports once again assessed the human rights situations in over 190 countries and regions in the world.
The reports carry distorted pictures and accusations of human rights conditions in China and other countries, but they mention not even a word of the human rights problems in the United States itself.
Therefore, it is necessary to make known to the world the human rights violations in the United States in 2002.
I. Ineffective Protection of Life and Security of Person
In American society, excessive violence has resulted in ineffective protection of life and security of the person.
According to a report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Oct. 28, 2002, the United States recorded 11.8 million crime offenses in 2001, a 2.1 percent increase over 2000.
The offenses included four violent crimes (murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), and three property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). Firearms were involved in 26.2 percent of violent crime cases, and murder cases increased by 2.5 percent.
There was an offense in every 2.7 seconds, and there were 44 murders, 248 rapes and 26 hate crimes each day. Among the crime offences were 15,980 murders and 90,491 forcible rapes.
Crime in many major American cities went up in 2002. In Washington D.C., drug abuse, gang violence and prostitution ran rampant, and crime went up by 36 percent from 2001; in Boston the crime rates increased by 67 percent, and in Los Angeles, by 27 percent.
The murder rate in the United States was five to seven times higher than most industrial nations.
During January-November 2002, New York City reported 489 murder cases; Chicago registered 485 homicide cases, in which 515 people were killed; and Detroit reported 346 murders.
During the same period Los Angeles reported 595 murder cases with 614 people killed, up 11.3 percent and 20.5 percent compared to the same period in 2001 and 2000, respectively (Los Angeles, Nov. 21, 2002, AFP).
The Constitution of the United States provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and the constitutions of 44 states in the nation include provisions safeguarding citizens' right to possess guns.
In the United States, guns owned by private individuals exceed 200 million, averaging nearly one for every citizen. In 2002, the numbers of gun buyers across the United States went up by 13 percent to twice over previous years, and the number of rifle owners increased even faster.
The National Rifle Association of the United States has over 2.8 million members. Excessive gun ownership has led to frequent shootings, and victims of firearms-related crime number more than 30,000 a year.
On March 26, a retired sheriff's deputy in Merced County, California, shot and killed his 5-year-old daughter and his three stepchildren while his estranged wife was out for a walk, then committed suicide with the body of one of the youngsters in his arms.
On May 30, a gunman opened fire inside a grocery store at a Top Valu Market near the downtown marina in Long Beach, California, killing a woman and a 7-year-old girl and wounding four others before he was fatally shot by police (Long Beach, California, May 31, 2002, AFP).
From October 2 to October 22, serial gun shooting cases occurred in Washington D.C. and neighboring Maryland and Virginia states, in which ten people were killed and three others were seriously wounded.
The number of gun shootings went up by 40 percent in Los Angeles in 2002 over 2001. Between the evening of November 19 and the early morning of November 20, five separate cases of gun shooting took place in downtown Los Angeles, leaving two people dead and seven others wounded.
Crime rates among juveniles in the United States have remained high, with youngsters accounting for 20 percent of violent crime.
Drug abuse among youngsters has kept increasing. Drug abuse among tenth-grade high school students in the United States went up from 11.6 percent in 1991 to 22.7 percent in 2001, and 34.4 percent of senior high school students in New York City have at least taken marijuana once.
In 2001, there were 638,000 narcotics-related cases, and drug abuse accounted for 25 percent of violent crime in the United States.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, crime in schools decreased as most schools have installed metal detectors and video cameras, but it was reported that 6 percent of the students still carried guns to school.
Violence in schools such as bullying rose by 12 percent, and at least 10,000 students in the United States choose to stay at home once in a month for fear of being bullied ("School Crime Decreasing, US Says, But Students Still Fear Bullying, Reports Show", Dec. 10, 2002, Sun).
Violence in nursing homes for the aged in the United States is worrisome. In March 2002, a report submitted to the US Congress said that inmates in some of such homes had suffered splash of cold water, battery and sexual assault.
However, such acts had never been regarded as crime, and most of them had not been prosecuted. Statistics show that there are 17,000 homes for the aged and similar institutions in the United States, housing 1.6 million aged Americans.
Violations of law have been found in about 26 percent of them, and two percent of which have caused physical injuries.
II. Serious Human Rights Violation by Law Enforcement Officials
The rights of ordinary Americans have met with challenge after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The anti-terrorism law USA Patriot Act, which took effect on October 26, 2001, provides law enforcement agencies with greater powers for investigation, including wiretapping of phone calls and Internet E-mail communications by suspect terrorists.
A Federal Court of Appeals on November 18 ruled that the Department of Justice asking for expanding its investigative powers is constitutional, and therefore should not be restricted. It aroused great concern among the American public that the DOJ would encroach upon their right of privacy in its work.
Commenting on the court ruling, US House Judiciary Committee Representative John Conyers said in a statement the same day, "Piece by piece, this Administration is dismantling the basic rights afforded to every American under the Constitution." Some civil rights and electronic information organizations worried that there would have no effective protection of civil rights after the ruling.
Police brutality is a chronic malady in American society. On July 6, 2002, a bystander videotaped a scene in which several white police officers at Inglewood, Los Angeles, slammed the head of a handcuffed 16-year-old black, named Donovan Jackson, on a squad car and punched him in his eyes, neck and hands. Afterwards, one police officer involved was ordered a paid leave. In contrast, the man who filmed the videotape was detained on July 10.
In another incident, on July 8, Oklahoma City police officers repeatedly beat a black suspect on the ground with their batons. The suspect was pepper-sprayed twice. On September 16, police in Boston shot at a suspect car hijacker in the downtown area and wounded him seriously. The incident led to a mass demonstration against police brutality.
Indiscriminate arrests are another serious problem in the United States. According to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), prosecutors declined to bring charges in 15,798 arrests in 2001, or 26 percent of the 60,412 cases they reviewed that year, the vast majority brought by Baltimore police.
In 2002 the number of monthly arrests increased by 15 percent over the previous year to 7,832. Prosecutors declined to charge in24 percent of the cases. Two-thirds of the cases they dropped were dropped on the day of arrest because they could not be proved in court (May 9, 2002, Sun).
Within half a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI detained for security reasons more than 1,200 non-US nationals, mainly men from Muslim or Middle Eastern countries (Washington, Dec.10, 2002, EFE). Most of them were detained for overstaying their visas, and according to rules the detention should last for no more than 48 hours. However, many were actually held in custody for a month or more, or even up to 50 days.
While in custody, they were deprived of their basic rights -- making phone calls, access to a lawyer, family visits, being informed of the reasons for the detention, or challenging the lawfulness of the detention.
They were let out for exercise and air less than an hour a day. Many were handcuffed, and some were even bundled. Those falling ill could not get timely medical treatment.
In many cases torture was used to extract confessions, and unjust charges were often reported in the United States. According to a Reuters report on February 11, 2002, US authorities confirmed that over 200 inmates had been wrongly convicted since 1973; among them 99 inmates on death row had been proved innocent, but most of them had not got compensations (Washington, Feb.11, 2002, Reuters).
Ray Krone walked out an Arizona courtroom a free man in April 2002 after spending 10 years and three months in prison, with more than two years in the death cell (USA Today, June 18, 2002). Yet, he could hardly obtain any compensation from the state government in accordance with state laws.
A black man in Detroit, named Eddie Joe Lloyd, served a term of 17 years, three months and five days in jail on a charge of raping and murdering a teenage girl before he was freed in August 2002 (New York Times, Aug. 27, 2002).
The wrong verdicts are closely related to confessions from innocent people extracted by police. According to an ABC (American Broadcasting Company) news report on March 15, 2002, every year thousands of criminals are convicted on the basis of confessions obtained from police interrogations.
Also according to the ABC news report, in 1993, Gary Gauger, a man in Illinois, was forced to confess he had killed his parents, a crime he did not commit, when he broke down after 21 hours of police interrogation. He was then sentenced to death for double murder. Two years later, the real killers confessed to the crime in an unrelated federal investigation. Gauger was freed in 1996, after spending three years behind bars.
The United States is one of the few countries to impose capital punishment on child offenders and mentally ill people in the world. Twenty-three US states permit the execution of child offenders (under 18 at the time of the crime). Two thirds of the executions of child offenders over the past decade worldwide were carried out in the United States.
Since 1985, 18 child offenders had been executed, half of them in Texas State (May 9, 2002, EFE). The executions in 2002 also included three child offenders and one mentally ill man. There were 80 child offenders on death row, and the figure in the case of the mentally retarded was estimated to be around 200 to 300. (The Amnesty International)
Prisons in the United States are jam-packed with inmates. According to a report of the Bureau of Justice Statistics under the Department of Justice released on August 25, 2002, the adult US correctional population reached a record of almost 6.6 million at the end of 2001, or fourfold of the 1980 figure. About 3.1 percent of the nation's adult population, or 1 in every 32 adult residents, were on probation or parole or were held in a prison or jail. Roughly two million Americans are currently behind bars.
In a report titled "A stigma that never fades", the British business magazine Economist said that America is "the world's most aggressive jailer", and "when local jails are included in the American tally, the United States locks up nearly 700 people per 100,000". (The Economist, August 10, 2002)
Poor management of prisons leads to lack of protection of inmates' legitimate rights. Extortion, abuse, violence and sexual assault are serious in prisons of the United States.
An Amnesty International report released on May 14, 2002 said inmate Frank Valdes at the Florida State Prison was beaten to death by guards in July 1999. Autopsy reports proved massive injuries, including 22 broken ribs and a fractured sternum, nose and jaw, and there were boot marks on his face, neck, abdomen and back.
The three guards involved were charged of second-degree murder in 1999. But the Florida State prosecutors decided in February 2002 to drop the charges.
According to reports of US human rights organizations, brutalities targeted at inmates number about 100,000 a year in American prisons. A former chief law officer of Virginia State estimated the number of such brutalities to be at least 250,000 oras many as 600,000 a year.
Sexual assaults between male inmates are prominent in the prisons. Most of such assaults are coupled with the use of force, causing spread of HIV virus and physical and mental injuries on victims. The prison and judicial departments remain indifferent towards such complaints and take no punishment measures.
The Sun newspaper reported on August 31, 2002, the Baltimore City Detention Center has a poorly run system of health care and suicide prevention. In some cases, the problems resulted in jail suicides, heart attack deaths and fatal asthma spasms that federal authorities deemed preventable if the inmates had been properly treated.
In another case, a fire killed eight inmates locked in cells in Mitchell County jail in North Carolina and injured 13 others. The prison authority blamed lack of water sprinklers for the tragedy.
III. Money-driven Democracy
Boasting itself to be the "model of democracy", the United States has been trying hard to sell to the world its mode of democracy.
In fact, American "democracy" has always been democracy of the rich, a small number of the population. Just as an article in the International Herald Tribute of the January 24, 2002 issue says, "The American problem is domination of politics by money."
The dominant role of money in American politics has been very obvious, and elections have in fact been turned into races of money.
During the midterm elections in 2002, spending on campaigning TV advertising amounted to US$900 million, surpassing that for the presidential election in 2000.
According to an analysis made by the Associated Press based of data from the Federal Election Commission, in the 2002 midterm elections 95 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives and 75 percent of the seats in the Senate went to candidates who had spent the most in campaigning.
In a report filed on August 30, 2002, AP said President George W. Bush, in order to win control of the House and the Senate, cashed in on his cachet to raise donations for midterm elections of his Republicans, and collected US$110 million for three GOP candidates in Oklahoma and Arkansas, setting records in campaign cash raising ("Bush raises nearly $110 million for Republicans, setting record", Aug. 30, 2002, Sun).
Election of judges in the United States is also like a race of money. In the year of 2000, judge candidates in only two states bought TV advertising, whereas during the midterm elections in 2002, chief justice candidates in nine states bought TV commercials.
"Money politics" has made more and more American people lose interest in political participation.
Statistics show the United States has experienced declining voter turnout in presidential election years for about four decades.
Measured against the voting age population, turnout in presidential election years fell from its high of 62.8 percent in 1960 to an estimated 51.2 percent in 2000.
In contrast, 60 percent of eligible voters shunned the midterm elections in 2002, leaving the voter turnout at 40 percent.
A survey of minority voters in three cities of California showed almost all the surveyed were fed up with the fact that money can buy over politics and were not interested in political participation.
Asian American voters reckon money had too much influence over politics, which is unfair; African Americans and Hispanics felt being shut out of the door of politics and had become its victims.
The United States has been flaunting its "freedom of the press," but it met with criticism from many sides in 2002 in this respect.
In an annual report published on Feb. 21, 2002, the International Press Institute accused the United States of violating freedom of the press and said it is the most astonishing event of 2001 that the way the Bush administration treated the work of the media during the Afghan war and the practices of the Bush administration attempting to suppress freedom of speech by independent media (Vienna, Feb. 21, 2002, AFP).
Two senior journalists with the Washington Post wrote in their book entitled "The News About The News: American Journalism In Peril" that practices of pursuing profits have destroyed the sense of mission of the journalistic community of the United States, and believed an overwhelming majority of media owners and publishing businessmen forced newspaper editors and TV news executives to concentrate on profits as opposed to quality of coverage (New York, March 29, 2002, AP).
In its annual report published on May 2, 2002, Reporters Without Borders exposed since September 11 attacks, the United States has exerted pressure on the journalistic community in the war against terrorism, which has restricted freedom of the press (Paris, May 2, 2002, EFE).
On August 6, 2002, a major news organ in the United States published a survey showing the public wanting the media to "shut up".
The survey found among the respondents, 69 percent believe the media is biased, and over two thirds of them read news reports with disbelief.
IV. Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness
The United States is the only superpower in the world, however, the poor, hungry and homeless have formed a "Third World" in this most developed nation, owing to the widening gap in wealth between the rich and the poor and social injustice.
In the last two years, a series of scandals of major corporate fraud were exposed in the United States, resulting in a credibility crisis and financial losses, which has deprived ordinary Americans of a sense of economic security due to the serious losses they suffered. The Labor Department of the United States reported on January 10, 2003 that between 2001 and 2002, the United States lost 1.6 million jobs. In December 2002, the country's unemployment rate was six percent; the number of jobless people stood at 8.6 million; and employers slashed payrolls by 101,000 workers (Jan. 11, 2003, Sun).
In the United States, 60 percent of households own stock shares. As corporate fraud scandals brought down the stock market, its capitalization was slashed by US$2.5 trillion, with the employees of the affected big firms and their shareholders suffering great losses. Since energy giant Enron filed for bankruptcy protection, its stock price plunged from US$85 a share to less than US$1 a share. Millions of Enron stockholders have suffered enormous losses. A large number of Enron employees lost all their pension funds, while teachers, firefighters and some government workers lost US$1 billion in pensions.
WorldCom's filing for bankruptcy also plunged its stock share price to a few cents from US$62; 17,000 of its employees became jobless, while investors had their interests severely damaged (June 26, 2003, Sun).
The gap in wealth between rich and poor has become even wider. The US Federal Reserve reported on January 22, 2003 that between1992 and 1998, the gap in wealth between the 10 percent of families with the highest incomes and the 20 percent of families with the lowest incomes increased by 9 percent, but between 1998 and 2001, the gap jumped by 70 percent.
The Washington Post reported on September 24, 2002 that the top20 percent residents with highest income in the United States accounted for 50 percent of the total income of the country, while the share of the richest 5 percent (with an annual income of US$150,000 and above) in the national total went up from 22.1 percent in 2000 to 22.4 percent in 2001.
Poverty and hunger have kept increasing. According to the Census Bureau of the United States, in 2001, another 1.3 million people fell below the poverty line; in 2002, the poor population continued growing.
According to the American organization Bread for the World,, 33million Americans lived in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger in 2002. The newspaper USA Today reported that the nation's estimated 3 million homeless had harder times in 2002,as authorities reduced assistance to them and tough laws were passed against them (USA Today, Dec. 27, 2002).
A survey report published by the US Conference of Mayors indicates that the year 2002 witnessed an average of 19 percent increase in requests for emergency food assistance in 25 large cities in the country, and also an average of 19 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter assistance in 18 major cities, the steepest rise in a decade.
And all the cities in the survey expect that requests for both emergency food assistance and shelter assistance would increase again in 2003. Boston Mayor and President of the US Conference of Mayors Thomas M. Menino commented, "The world's richest and most powerful nation must find a way to meet the basic needs of all its residents."
The Associate Press reported on November 3, 2002 that 777,000 people in Los Angeles, or 33 percent of its population, were food insecure and could not always afford to put food on the table. By July 2002, homelessness in New York grew by 66 percent compared with four years ago (Aug. 20, 2002, AP). In 2002, Los Angeles County alone had 84,000 homeless people, and every night, 43 percent of 9,000-15,000 vagrants could not find shelters and had to sleep on downtown sidewalks.
According to statistics by relevant American organizations, the current homelessness situation in the United States has become nearly as severe as at the end of World War II. Most vulnerable to poverty and hunger are pregnant women, the aged, people without ID, and single-parent families. The report by the US Conference of Mayors indicates that among those requesting for emergency food assistance, 48 percent were members of families with children; 38 percent of the adults requesting such assistance were employed; of the homeless, 39 percent were from families with children, 22 percent were employed, and 73 percent were from single-parent families.

 


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