By Margaret Huang, executive director at Amnesty International USA
On the 20th of January, the eyes of the world will be on Washington, DC as a new U.S. president takes the oath of office. Donald J. Trump and his administration will assume responsibility for upholding the laws of the land – including the United States’ obligations to protect human rights at home and abroad.
However, if Trump implements his campaign rhetoric of fear and hate in US policies, there is a real risk that the vast power of the U.S. government could have devastating impacts on people’s human rights. Trump’s campaign proposals – including creating a Muslim registry and barring entry to the United States based on religion – recall shameful chapters of U.S. history like the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. In his speeches, he showed disdain for women and people of color, people with disabilities, and attempted to intimidate critics and journalists.
Since his election, Trump has also nominated cabinet appointees whose past records and testimony raise concerns about the administration’s future policies. Rex Tillerson, the potential Secretary of State, was reluctant to criticise human rights violations in a range of countries, including those with whom he has had a history of close business ties as CEO of ExxonMobil.
“In his speeches, he showed disdain for women and people of color, people with disabilities, and attempted to intimidate critics and journalists”
Senator Sessions, the nominee for Attorney General, has repeatedly opposed policies that would protect the rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTI community.
Leaders must be held accountable
The scapegoating and fear-mongering shown during his campaign has no place in the United States or anywhere else in the world. Amnesty International has worked to hold world leaders – including every U.S. president – accountable for upholding human rights for over its 55-year history. Donald Trump will be no exception.
As president, Trump must unequivocally abandon his hateful statements and publicly reject racism and discrimination. Failing to do so would not only have consequences for those in the U.S., but for people all over the world.
“Amnesty International has worked to hold world leaders — including every U.S. president — accountable for upholding human rights for over its 55-year history. Donald Trump will be no exception”
Trump will be taking office in the midst of one of the largest refugee crises in generations. More people are fleeing violent conflict than at any other time since WWII. Millions have been forced from their homes upon fear of death if they return. The United States must share in the responsibility of protecting refugees.
Trump has repeatedly resorted to false assertions about people seeking asylum, which are based on ugly and demonstrably bogus stereotypes. He must renounce this language and honor U.S. commitments to refugees.
Should the U.S. turn its back on refugees other countries around the world will cite this as an excuse for shirking their obligations under international law. The result would be the continued global tragedy of having 21 million refugees with nowhere to go, including the prolonged human misery of women, men and children living in camps without schools, jobs, and adequate food and medical care.
Attacks on human rights defenders on the rise
Trump is also taking office at a time when attacks on human rights defenders are on the rise. From Moscow to Cairo, from Standing Rock to Hong Kong, those who stand up for their rights are being persecuted, arrested and attacked.
“It is absolutely crucial the U.S. government respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all people, without discrimination of any kind”
Trump’s vicious repudiation of those who disagree with him are an ominous sign. As president, he must leave these intimidating tactics behind and commit to respecting and protecting the rights of peaceful dissidents and human rights defenders -– including those who may criticise him – in order to protect the right to free expression.
The international human rights obligations that the president is duty-bound to uphold are significant and cannot be dismissed. It is absolutely crucial the U.S. government respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all people, without discrimination of any kind.
We have seen what happens when world leaders disregard these obligations and act without conscience. Should that happen again in the USA, it would only further embolden other leaders’ belief that their own human rights abuses can continue unchecked. It is time for all of us to stand together and demand that President Trump and his administration respect human rights for all.