US must reverse Trump course, make human rights central: Human Rights Watch
US President-elect Joe Biden needs to restore the country's credibility on human rights at home and abroad, the head of New-York based Human Rights Watch told Reuters on Wednesday, after what he said were four years of abuse of democratic principles.
Speaking to Reuters before the release of the activist group's annual report, Kenneth Roth said outgoing president Donald Trump had flouted human rights at home and been inconsistent in criticising other countries' rights records.
Biden, due to take office on Jan. 20, should make human rights a cornerstone of US foreign policy, said Roth, HRW executive director.
"Trump has been a complete disaster for human rights, he flouted human rights at home with the fomenting of the January 6 attack on the Capitol being just the latest example of the natural culmination of four years of abuse of democratic principles," Roth told Reuters Television in Geneva.
With eight days remaining of Trump's term, the House will vote on Wednesday on an article of impeachment accusing him of inciting insurrection in a speech to his followers last week before a mob of them stormed the Capitol, leaving five dead.
Trump has denied responsibility for the violence and previous allegations of violating human rights. He has said his critics stole the election to block his "Make America Great Again" and "America First" policies, but produced no evidence.
Roth accused Trump of having "cozied up to every friendly autocrat under the sun" while reserving criticism on human rights issues for his "perceived adversaries" - Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, and "sometimes China".
"But that kind of utterly inconsistent approach had no credibility. There was no force to his criticism when people knew that it was serving another political agenda, not a principled agenda," he said.
Biden should articulate human rights as a "guiding principle of US foreign policy and then to stick with it, even when that’s difficult", Roth said.
He urged him to call off arms sales to countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel and criticise Indian prime minister Modi over his policy towards Muslims, "even though India is going to be an important ally in contesting China".
Roth also called for Biden to re-engage with the United Nations' Human Rights Council, a Geneva forum which Trump quit in June 2018, "even though it criticizes Israel".
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- The panel also criticised WHO for dragging its feet at the start of the crisis, pointing out that the UN health agency had not convened its emergency committee until January 22, 2020.
- The Capitol Police in a statement said the lockdown was lifted and the fire nearby was contained.
- Law enforcement officials said there was no threat to the public and the fire was not believed to be a threat to the inauguration.