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America Criticized For Human Rights Abuses

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Given the sensationalism driving much of mainstream US news media coverage of suspect sexual impropriety charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden it's not surprising that other significant news about America involving that Scandinavian nation goes uncovered.

In early November Sweden called on the US to end the death penalty and improve conditions in maximum security prisons when the United States went through its first-ever Universal Periodic Review by the United Nation's Human Rights Council.

Sweden joined nearly two dozen countries calling upon the US to end its pariah-like status as the only western industrialized nation to engage in executions. The US has over 3,200 people under death sentences, a sharp rise from 1968 when America's death row population numbered just 517 according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Other countries critical of the US posture on the death penalty -" practiced by the federal government and 35-states -" included Australia (the birthplace of Assange), France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Vatican.

The caustic onslaught in the U.S. against Assange for leaking sensitive documents, where attackers include members of Congress -" some even calling for Assange's death, is curious within the context of December 10th being the annual international observance of Human Rights Day.

That observance commemorates the UN's 12/10/1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

One provision of the Declaration provides people worldwide with the right to receive and impart information "through any media and regardless of frontiers."

The American assaults on Assange extend beyond the White House and Capitol Hill. Amazon removed WikiLeaks from its computer servers while MasterCard, PayPal and Visa have halted payments to WikiLeaks from donors supportive of work of that entity.

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While US officials attending that human rights review held in Switzerland proudly pointed to such continuing rights progress in America as the election of a black President and his selection of a Hispanic female US Supreme Court Justice, fifty-six countries including staunch US allies offered 228 recommendations for improving human rights in the nation that presents itself as the world's leader in protecting the rights of all.

Those recommendations involved a wide range of issues from attacking poverty among Native Americans to addressing abuses impacting immigrants and closing the infamous Guantanamo prison. However, most of the recommendations presented at that human rights review centered on concerns about deprivations and disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Belgium and Switzerland, for example called on America to stop sentencing teens to life in prison. Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of life sentenced teens with over 300.

Haiti called for ending the discriminatory impact of mandatory minimum sentences and Thailand called for addressing sexual violence inside U.S. prisons where homosexual rapes far exceed heterosexual rapes outside prison walls.

France urged the U.S. to study the racial disparities evident in the application of the death penalty. African-Americans comprise 41.43 percent of the people on death rows across America -" a figure more than twice the percentage of America's black population.

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The United Kingdom expressed concerns about damning evidence that the death penalty could sometimes be administered in a discriminatory manner.

Respected Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz recently wrote a commentary expressing his concerns about Kevin Cooper, a black California death row inmate facing execution for slaughtering four members of a white family in 1983 despite the lone survivor telling police the murders were white.

Facts now establish that police destroyed blood stained clothing evidence supplied by the girlfriend of one man police never investigated and the prosecution's forensic witnessed falsified evidence against Cooper.

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Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...)

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and those who have experience with it. Unfortunat... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010 at 4:12:43 PM
This country is devolving into what I see as a fas... by Donald on Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010 at 9:24:33 PM
US law is funny. This is something from Sweden.Pen... by John Smith on Thursday, Dec 9, 2010 at 7:37:09 AM