Sidelined on Human Rights: America Bows Out

Courtesy Reuters

Fifty years ago the United States took the lead in building modern international human rights law. But lately, Washington has been in the public eye for the obstacles it has raised to its further development. American reservations surfaced during the past year in negotiations to ban anti personnel land mines, to prohibit the use of child soldiers, and to establish an international criminal court. In each case, Washington paid lip service to the proposal while U.S. negotiators worked to weaken it. Because of these reservations, the international community has shown a new willingness to bypass the United States in strengthening human rights law.

The negotiations to ban antipersonnel land mines are the most prominent example of this trend. These indiscriminate weapons have appropriately been called weapons of mass destruction in slow motion. Because land mines cannot distinguish between a combatant and a child, they kill or maim an estimated 26,000

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