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“US has a right to criticise and to be criticised” – Sam Brownback

EXCLUSIVE

23 December 2021 02:50 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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I think we need to return to the basics on human rights and the 1948 UN Charter Agreement and get back and really push on those that were agreed to by everybody 

To me, the future of oppression is going to be a virtual police state

There’s going to be a genocide of religious minorities in Afghanistan if they don’t get out

He said that either the world will change China or China will change the world

The world needs to stand up now and demand that if China is going to be a global leader, it has to play by the human rights rules

 

The United States continues to police other countries on democracy and human rights despite facing similar allegations on its own soil. The (Donald) Trump administration faced the most criticism when it came to ensuring human rights and democracy in the US. The US dealings with the UN, UN Human Rights Council, China and North Korea grabbed global attention when Donald Trump was President. 
Sam Brownback was the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom under the Trump administration. In an exclusive interview with Daily Mirror World Focus,  Brownback reflected on some of the decisions taken by President Trump and the current state of human rights in the world.
Excerpts:

 

Q How do you see the human rights situation at present in the world and the way the U.S. is dealing with this? 
Unfortunately, I think that the human rights situation globally is in decline with the ascendancy of a number of authoritarian regimes in different parts of the world, most notably China, because of its far reach. I think we need to return to the basics on human rights and the 1948 UN Charter Agreement and get back and really push on those that were agreed to by everybody around the world. I think that’s really what’s needed to take us back there and focus on human rights and get them back in ascendancy around the world instead of being on a decline. I think our foundation has crumbled on human rights and I think that this is a serious global issue. 

 

There shouldn’t be a higher standard for the West and a lower standard for China. China should be held to that same human rights standard, and that’s what I’m calling for. And I think other countries in the West have every right to be able to call for that as well


Q Do you think that organizations like the United Nations and the Human Rights Council are doing enough to address some of these issues?  
I don’t think they’re doing nearly enough. And I think that some of their actions have a counter effect on human rights. If the U.N. Secretary General attends the Olympics at the same time that China has Uyghur Muslims subject to a genocide, I think that’s a terrible double standard and hypocrisy. The U.S. and several countries have announced a diplomatic boycott. I’ve called for an advertisers boycott of these Olympics. Let the athletes go ahead and compete. But we shouldn’t line the pockets of China if they’re going to conduct a genocide and literally a war on faith. They’re at war against every faith. At the same time, they’ve got an Olympics going. So I don’t think the UN is doing near enough. And in many cases, they even undermine the human rights project by some of the stands and the things they seem to back by their lack of voice against it. 

 

So the double standard and the hypocrisy exists with which they treat China differently on human rights than they do the West. It just speaks volumes and it’s wrong. The U.N. should be the foremost body around the world speaking for human rights, but they do not

 

Q So are you saying that even U.S. athletes should not attend the Beijing Olympics? 
No, I think they should attend the Olympics. A year ago, I was calling for the Olympics to be moved to another venue. And I thought they should have been moved, but we’re too late for that. I am saying that the U.N. Secretary General should not make a diplomatic statement stating that he’ll attend the Olympics. If either the United States or France is hosting the Olympics and at the same time if one of those countries had a million Muslim Uyghurs in a concentration camp, do you think the U.N. Secretary General would speak out against that and attend the Olympics honouring our nation? There is no way they would. So the double standard and the hypocrisy exists with which they treat China differently on human rights than they do the West. It just speaks volumes and it’s wrong. The U.N. should be the foremost body around the world speaking for human rights, but they do not. 


QLet’s go back to the time that you were in office during the Trump administration. What steps did President Trump and then Secretary of State take regarding some of these human rights issues?  
Well, we declared what was happening in Western China as a genocide against the Uyghurs. We pushed aggressively on the situation of the Rohingya coming out of Myanmar and what was taking place. I visited the refugee camps there. I worked with Uyghurs. We hosted international forums on religious freedom, two foreign ministers summits on religious freedom in Washington, D.C. We formed an international organization, international religious freedom or Belief Alliance of, I think, some 33 nations to push for religious freedom for everybody, everywhere, all the time. That’s our standard. That’s the UN Charter standard. The 1948 Section 18 standard is that you’re entitled to religious freedom, whoever you are and wherever you are, and it’s at all times. And we pushed for getting really back to those basics on human rights, so that we could move forward, securing and rebuilding our foundation of what this entire human rights project globally is built on. 

 

The Human Rights Council ought to have some basic modicum of standards. But I think we should have more aggressively engaged in such affairs. I think we should be very clear on what we stand for, but not back away from these institutions because it creates a vacuum for China to walk into

 


Q But do you think that the steps that you took resulted in some sort of progress, or was it a case that China just turned a blind eye to the issue? 
They not only turned a blind eye to it, they turned both eyes and focused on it and said in your face, we’re going to keep doing it and we’re going to do more of it and we’re going to fund it around the world. And they hold on to one of the things that I think I’m most troubled about as far as the future of oppression. To me, the future of oppression is going to be a virtual police state. It’s not going to be something like as many people locked up or excluded from a country. It’s going to be these high-tech cameras, artificial intelligence, digital currency, controlling people where they can’t move or do anything within a culture if they are out of the mainstream of religious thought or in the case of China, atheistic thought. They’re going to be excluded from participation in this society. And this is a diabolical thing and it’s going to be exported. The systems are going to be exported to other authoritarian regimes and it’s become increasingly difficult for a person to practice his or her faith or certainly to be a minority religion in a majority religion country. 


QSo how should one deal with China if, like you said, they just turn away from this issue and are not willing to discuss the concerns and address them? 
It’s a tough problem, but I think we can start with things like the Olympics. I think a diplomatic boycott is a good start. And the U.N. should do a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics. I think an advertisers boycott of the Olympics would be a good step forward where companies from outside of China say, we’re not going to fund this. If you’re conducting these things, and if I could just say parenthetically, praise God for the Women’s Tennis Association standing up for one of their own that disappeared, sexually abused in China. And they didn’t just follow the money and say, Oh, it’s OK, we’ll just go ahead and keep having our tournaments here. They pulled their tournaments and they should. I think people need to start getting some backbone on these things, and it may cost them a little bit, but it’s going to cost them a lot more in the long run if we allow China to get away with these things. A friend of mine is a Tibetan and he said something I thought was quite accurate on this. He said that either the world will change China or China will change the world. It’s going to happen one way or the other. And I think the world needs to stand up now and demand that if China is going to be a global leader, it has to play by the human rights rules that the world established back in 1948. 

 

He said that either the world will change China or China will change the world. It’s going to happen one way or the other. And I think the world needs to stand up now and demand that if China is going to be a global leader, it has to play by the human rights rules

 


QChina offers financial assistance to smaller nations that depend on foreign funding. Is there something more that the US should be doing to sort of step in and, you know, may be offer equal assistance, so that China does not become one of the bigger players here?
I think so. I’ve been advocating through the IMF for special drawing rights for a number of countries, particularly now that we’re in a pandemic and you’ve had all this disruption globally. A number of countries are in great difficulty. In the past I was a Governor of a state and you’re always watching your budget to try to figure out how you keep your services funded. Well, that’s the same with every country. They’ve got to watch their budgets. And if they don’t get money from the West because they can’t, and when they need it for their budget, for their people, they’re going to find it from somewhere else. That’s why I think of the special drawing rights and that we should have more of them going to developing countries-particularly now experiencing a pandemic-and the disruption that is taking place would be one pretty simple, fairly straightforward tool that we could do so. And then and I think we need to confront China and work with these governments on funding them. If we do that we will demand more transparency in their budgeting and more fiscal accountability. And I think that’s as it should be as well. And I think that can be an assistance to some of these nations. 


Q I just want to go back to some of the points you made on the U.N. and the Human Rights Council. The Trump administration pulled out of the Human Rights Council basically accusing it of being weak and siding on certain issues, which it did not agree on. Do you think that was the right move? Should the US have maybe remained with the Human Rights Council and work with the council to address issues? 
Yeah, I don’t know if that was a good move. I would really back up earlier. And I’ve been part of that. I take part of the blame for this. We backed away from a number of the UN institutions because they in our estimation, they were being corrupted. That just created a vacuum for China to walk in. So I think we’re partially to blame. We should have more aggressively engaged in it. The Human Rights Council ought to have some basic modicum of standards. But I think we should have more aggressively engaged in such affairs. I think we should be very clear on what we stand for, but not back away from these institutions because it creates a vacuum for China to walk into. 

 

And then and I think we need to confront China and work with these governments on funding them. If we do that we will demand more transparency in their budgeting and more fiscal accountability. And I think that’s as it should be as well. And I think that can be an assistance to some of these nations

 


Q And the other question that often comes up is what rights does the U.S. have to police other countries? 
Good question, and I think we have the right that any other country has to criticise and to be criticised and to criticise ourselves. We are not perfect by any means, but we’re always pushing for a standard and moving and trying to move forward on human rights. Right now, I’m carrying an issue to apologise to Native Americans in the United States for things that we did here in our past. I think we’ve made mistakes and we need to be criticised for it. But I think that also allows us to criticise other nations of what they are doing for us all to pull together more for the global human rights project. But there shouldn’t be a double standard. There shouldn’t be a higher standard for the West and a lower standard for China. China should be held to that same human rights standard, and that’s what I’m calling for. And I think other countries in the West have every right to be able to call for that as well. 


Q The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has drawn a lot of attention; particularly since the Taliban continues to commit human rights abuses and disrespect the rights of women. Withdrawal of troops is something that has already happened. What should the U.S. do now? 
Well, I thought that was one of the worst things the United States has done in the past several decades. And if you look at what’s taking place there now, there’s going to be a genocide of religious minorities in Afghanistan if they don’t get out. I’m working to help get them out of the country and permanently located and in third countries. I think we need to be engaged. I think we need to get people out of areas right now where there are religious minorities like Hindus, Ahmadi, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Shia, Muslims. They need to get out because they’re going to and are getting slaughtered now. And if they won’t get slaughtered directly, they’ll get starved to death. I think it’s the thing to do now and then I think that we’re going to need to re-engage in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t doubt we’re going to be back in Afghanistan, the same as what happened in Iraq when President Obama pulled our troops back. And you had a genocide of Yazidis and Christians in northern Iraq. And you may well see it become another terrorist haven again. 


Q Do you agree with the decision to freeze funding in Afghanistan, since some say that this is affecting the ordinary people? 
I do agree with freezing the funding, but not humanitarian aid, not food and medicine. And we have typically bifurcated those in the past where we’ve frozen economic aid and we’ve frozen aid to the government, but not food and medical aid. We try to keep the people fed and from being starved to death and make available health care medicines. 


Q And what’s your take on the US administration removing Nigeria from the countries in the concerned list? 
It’s a bad move. You’ve got a terrorist convention coming together in northern Nigeria and that entire Sahel region. All the militant Islamic terrorist groups are funding operations in that region. And that’s the target for the next caliphate. We need to be engaged there now before it becomes a caliphate. And you’ve got levels of Christian persecution there that continue to go up. The bureaucracy in Washington, at the State Department and other places won the fight saying that it had nothing to do with religion when it certainly does have something to do with religion. I’m not saying religion is the whole issue, but it’s one of the key divisions in that area. It’s one of the things that the Islamic militant terrorists play upon and it is something which implies that if the other people don’t agree with our view of faith and they should be killed. And this is one of their key tactics and they’ve used it around the world consistently. You can’t deny that they’ve been trying to use religion as an instrument of war. And we need to stand up against it, or it only gets worse. 


Q Since you spoke about the use of religion as an instrument of war, religious extremism is something that is being discussed a lot in this region, in South Asia and Asia and globally as well. In Pakistan recently, a Sri Lankan was attacked on the accusation that he had committed blasphemy. How should governments deal with this issue?  
It happened in my state while I was Governor, I had a Hindu man that was attacked because he looked different and was killed. Well, you don’t just turn away from it. We arrested the person who did it, we prosecuted him to the full extent of the law, and I, as Governor, said this does not stand for our values. We will not tolerate this. We will stand and fight against it. The answer isn’t to exclude religion, neither to say all religions are bad. I’m a man of faith myself. I follow Jesus. You’re not going to stop people from being religious and you shouldn’t. The key is for governments to stand up and protect everybody’s right to religious freedom. Whatever the view of that faith is okay as long as it’s peacefully practised. If you’re going to go blow up buildings because of your faith, we’re going to arrest you and we’re going to prosecute you to the full extent of the law. And I did that as well. But everybody else, if you want to peacefully practise your faith, we support that and we will protect that. And if we don’t have freedom of religion for everybody everywhere, you’re going to see the global clash of civilizations. The civilizations are basically built, in most instances, upon a religion and on top of the values of a religion. When you’ve got conflicting religions that’s when you get the clash of civilizations. The government must step in and say we protect everybody’s right to religious freedom and practice their own faith and the way they see fit, as long as it’s peaceful. 


Q The US issues annually a report on religious freedom, and this report mentions incidents taking place in a number of countries, and yet we see some of these governments continuing to abuse religious freedom, continue to give space for extremists who are even mentioned in the report. What did you propose doing to countries that continue to recognise groups and individuals abusing religious freedom? 
I think we need to start sanctioning countries economically. And we use that tool once in a while. When Pastor Andrew Brunson was locked up in a Turkish prison President Trump sanctioned steel and aluminum exports from Turkey into the United States. That had a huge impact on their currency and their economy, and they released him. I think we need to start using that tool in places like Nigeria in particular. And then I also think we need to sell more on the positive side of religious freedom. When you protect everybody’s faith, you have a more diverse and satisfied population. You have less violence, and you have less conflicts. And this is in the research and the data. You also have more economic growth when you are allowed to interact peacefully with each other. It creates economic activity. It’s a positive for your economy. We have pushed for religious freedom in the United States since our founding. It was what we were founded upon. And you’ve got one of the most diverse societies, probably the most diverse culture in the world by far here. We’re not perfect and we still have problems. We get Jewish temples that get attacked. We get people’s faith being attacked. But by and large, there’s an accommodation and a protection for everybody’s religious freedom and that produces a human flourishing. 


Q Do you agree with the Trump administration engaging with North Korea despite serious human rights issues that are taking place in that country?
You know, I don’t. I don’t know if that was a good move because they’ve got huge human rights issues. I think what President Trump saw was, ‘here’s a chance to head off a nuclear development, a nuclear weapon development’. I was suspicious and suspecious of it at the outset because we’ve tried this tactic with the Kim family before, and it’s never worked. They’ve entered into agreements with us and they violate them as soon as before the ink dries. We have tried engagement with North Korea in the past and it has not worked. 
 
 

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