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  • Protesters near Trump Tower in New York City, U.S. Jan. 19, 2017

    Protesters near Trump Tower in New York City, U.S. Jan. 19, 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 March 2017

This was the first time since the founding of the agency that the U.S. refused to attend.

The U.S. government did not participate in Tuesday’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR, meeting in Washington, D.C. which was set to discuss the Trump administration's travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and the revival of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, a move that legal experts say resembles the actions of authoritarian governments.

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Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, said that “today’s refusal to engage the commission at all is a deeply troubling indication of its disrespect for human rights norms and the institutions that oversee their protection.”

Dakwar said that in the past U.S. administrations expressed their displeasure with the hearings when they criticized U.S. policies by sending low-ranking delegations.

“The Trump administration’s refusal to engage with an independent human rights body … sets a dangerous precedent that mirrors the behavior of authoritarian regimes and will only serve to embolden them,” he added.

The IACHR is an independent body of the Organization of American States, which brings together all 35 independent countries in the Americas and allows victims of abuses in any of these countries to come forward with cases and complaints they are unable to pursue in local courts.

Even the Bush administration, according to ACLU’s legal professional, defended itself when survivors of the torture program put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks sought to sue.

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The Trump administration unleashed a series of attacks on civil and human rights within days of coming into power with the president issuing executive orders calling for deporting millions of undocumented immigrants and two travel bans on several Muslim-majority countries that have now been suspended.

Trump also revived the environmentally hazardous Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline, which is poised to endanger the main water source in the area and damage sacred Native American lands.

“It is a worrying sign that the administration, which has also said it would review future engagement with the U.N. Human Rights Council, is not only launching an assault on human rights at home,” Dakwar warned concluding that “it’s upping the ante and weakening the institutions that hold abusive governments accountable.”

The news comes just a day after the U.S. boycotted another annual United Nations-sponsored human rights meeting in Geneva that addresses Israeli abuses against Palestinians. Last week, the Trump administration threatened the U.N. with pulling aid funds if the world body did not withdraw a report calling Israel an “apartheid state.”

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