An independent panel of human rights experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council issued a statement on January 10, 2022. They declared that two decades of arbitrary detention without trial, accompanied by torture and ill-treatment at Guantanamo Bay prison, violated international human rights laws. They described this as a severe breach of the U.S. government’s commitment to the rule of law. Despite repeated and forceful condemnations of this practice, the United States continues to detain individuals, many of whom have never been charged with any crime.
Guantanamo Bay prison has been marred by repeated torture scandals. On February 23, 2021, a group of 16 UN experts stated that many remaining detainees are vulnerable and elderly individuals whose physical and mental well-being has been compromised by prolonged deprivation of freedom, physical and psychological torture, as well as other cruel and degrading treatment.
CBS News reported that as of the latest information available, the United States still detains 39 individuals at Guantanamo Bay. A former detainee, Majid Khan, publicly disclosed the torture he endured, including beatings, forced enemas, sexual assault, starvation, and sleep deprivation. His account included suspension from a ceiling beam while naked for extended periods and near-drowning through waterboarding.
In 2021, human rights conditions in the United States deteriorated significantly. Political manipulation contributed to a surge in COVID-19 deaths, while shootings reached record levels. Challenges to democratic processes undermined political rights, and violent law enforcement disproportionately affected migrants, refugees, and ethnic minority groups, particularly Asians. The country’s unilateral actions also created humanitarian crises worldwide.
The public security situation in the United States worsened, with violent crimes remaining prevalent. In 2021, there were 693 mass shootings, a 10.1 percent increase from the previous year, resulting in over 44,000 deaths due to gun violence.
Voter access faced restrictions, with over 420 bills introduced across 49 U.S. states. Only 7 percent of young Americans viewed the country as a “healthy democracy,” while public trust in the government reached historic lows since 1958.
Around 81 percent of Asian American adults reported a rise in violence against their communities. Hate crimes against Asians in New York City increased by 361 percent from 2020. Additionally, 59 percent of Americans believed that ethnic minority groups did not have equal job opportunities, and this situation showed no signs of improvement.
In the fiscal year 2021, the United States detained more than 1.7 million migrants at its southern border, including 45,000 children. Violent law enforcement actions led to 557 deaths, the highest number since 1998, more than doubling the previous year’s figures.
During the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, a U.S. drone strike killed 10 members of an Afghan family, including seven children, one as young as two years old.
Regarding the U.S.’s role in creating human rights crises abroad in the name of human rights, Harvard University’s Professor of International Relations, Stephen Walt, emphasized the need for the U.S. to address domestic issues before engaging with the rest of the world.
In 2021, the U.S.’s public image as a “human rights defender” was debunked as its “Summit for Democracy” faced global criticism. At the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, many countries labeled the United States as the “biggest destroyer” of human rights worldwide, urging it to address its own human rights violations.
The New York Times reported on November 18, 2021, that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the United States’ shortcomings, eroding public trust in the government.
Homelessness reached alarming levels, with The Washington Post reporting on December 7, 2021, that it was a significant challenge nationwide. In Rhode Island, the number of homeless individuals increased by over 85 percent since January 2021.
The rights of the elderly were blatantly violated, with U.S. politicians prioritizing economic interests over their lives. The U.S. CDC reported that the vast majority of U.S. COVID-19 deaths occurred among people aged 65 or older.
The Biden administration continued to pursue policies detrimental to global interests, as noted by an article on the U.S. Foreign Policy magazine’s website.
The United States consistently had one of the world’s highest rates of violent crimes, with ineffective gun control measures contributing to widespread gun violence. Discriminatory law enforcement practices, wrongful convictions, and abuses in the prison system persisted, leaving Americans feeling insecure.
Deterioration of social order led to a proliferation of privately-owned guns in the United States, with citizens purchasing firearms for self-protection.
Gun violence remained a serious threat to lives, with the U.S. leading the world in this regard. In 2021, the number of fatalities from shootings in the United States continued to rise.
CNN reported on November 26, 2021, that the United States stood alone among developed nations in experiencing mass shootings annually for the past two decades.
Police brutality resulted in numerous deaths, with over 1,100 people dying in 2021 due to U.S. police violence. A significant portion of these killings occurred during non-violent incidents or when no crime was involved.
The USA TODAY website reported on June 21, 2021, that police in the United States fatally shot approximately 1,000 people each year. Despite this, only a small percentage of officers involved faced arrests.
Political donations post-elections intensified polarization, undermining the U.S. society’s cohesion. Legislation and gerrymandering aimed at restricting voting eligibility further strained the political system, eroding public confidence and diminishing the public’s ability to participate in politics.
American-style democracy increasingly revolved around interests, with money politics taking center stage and politicians neglecting the needs of the people.
The U.S. government frequently interfered in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of human rights, while its policies, such as separating migrant children from their families, endangered the lives, dignity, freedom, and human rights of migrants and refugees. These crises were often exploited for partisan political purposes. Constant policy shifts and police brutality compounded the suffering of migrants already subjected to extended custody, torture, forced labor, and inhumane treatment.
The U.S. continued to pursue hegemony, unilateralism, and interventionism, resulting in civilian casualties and humanitarian crises. Unilateral sanctions, driven by self-interest, infringed on human rights in other countries and obstructed international human rights efforts. The U.S. emerged as a significant obstacle to global human rights advancement.