Human Rights? Practice what you preach!

Davey Meelker

Western nations often criticize other countries for their poor standard of human rights. Indeed, there is a lot to improve all over the world. Nevertheless, you have to practice what you preach and more often than not the advocates of human rights need to have a look at their own country as well. I’m from the Netherlands, a country advocating human rights all over the world, but maybe we should — like other Western countries — take closer at ourselves as well. According Amnesty International there is still a lot improve.

When traveling through Southeast Asia you can still see the sad history of parts of this region. In Vietnam there are mutilated children born as a result of all the agent orange thrown over the country by Americans. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are unexploded bombs and mines, from the same war in Vietnam. The bombing in Laos was even completely illegal, without the knowledge and permission of the US congress. In Cambodia the Khmer Rouge could rise to power, because of the American bombings. The national rage of those bombings led to great popularity of the Khmer Rouge and an opportunity to seize power. The brutal results are known: the Khmer Rouge wiped out around a quarter of the population and the West did nothing. The Vietnamese liberated Cambodia in 1979, and therefore the West still recognised Khmer Rouge as the only legitimate leader of Cambodia no matter the crimes they committed. The Khmer Rouge even had a seat in the United Nations till 1990!

Now, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge are brought to court and are finally facing justice. The United Stated was one of the countries who put much pressure to establish the court. I’m glad they did it, because possibly there otherwise would be no court and no justice. But what about the United States itself? Just before the Khmer Rouge started killing the United States killed thousands of innocents Laotians in illegal bombings. Altogether many people in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam died a gruesome death because of Amercian bombs and agent orange. Have the people responsible for that ever been brought to justice? Of course not, because they are Americans! The United Stated does not even recognize the International Criminal Court (ICC), because that gives the court the right to prosecute Americans as well. And even nowadays, regardless of Obama’s promises, Guantanamo Bay still exists.

And then my own country the Netherlands, the proud host of the ICC. Recently Amnesty International concluded in a report that they have reason to criticize the Dutch human rights. They stressed that the Netherlands fall short in tackling discrimination, educating their youngsters about human rights and they have a poor record in treating illegal immigrants. And indeed, when people are illegal in the country they are regarded as a criminal and can be detained, although they committed no crime except for being in the country. That makes them no danger. Too many persons without a residence permit are detained in prisons without looking at the alternatives. And when not in prison, many asylum seekers cannot work, learn the language or go easily to a doctor, while they sometimes have to wait for years to know if they are getting a residence permit or not. There are even laws in the making which make the criminalisation for people without a residence permit even worse. Without a residence permit you are not treated with the same human rights as the native Dutch. But wait a second, the Netherlands stress that human rights are universal. Isn’t that strange?

Tomorrow the United Nations Human Rights Council will talk about the human rights issues in the Netherlands. The country will be assessed and advised on this topic. Hopefully the government will do what it can to implement the advices. The Netherlands and all those other countries who are advocating human rights abroad are much more credible when the human rights in their own countries is guaranteed. Fighting for human rights all over the world is noble and of great importance, but practice what you preach!

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