Should the US intervene in global human rights?

Citizens have the responsibility to intervene in other countries in order to ensure rights for all. 

 As many 17-year-olds in the United States enjoyed the luxury of a formal education, Sri Lankan teenager Rizana Nafeek traveled from her homeland in 2005 to Saudi Arabia to serve as a maid. Though practically just a child herself, she swept up her employer’s home and looked after their four-month-old son by feeding, bathing and clothing the boy for just a few dollars a week.

Amy Hsieh | Daily Trojan

Amy Hsieh | Daily Trojan

On Jan. 9, the Saudi Arabian government beheaded Nafeek for allegedly murdering the infant she was caring for. The verdict was seemingly determined based on biased evidence; they also gave her no conventional due process. Moreover, she only had limited access to a lawyer and no translator, according to ABC News. Now the world will never know whether or not she truly strangled the small boy or if the infant had choked on his milk because the Saudi Arabian government essentially decided the ruling before any trial could begin.

Researchers at non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch, representatives of the European Union and the Secretary General of the United Nations have all verbally condemned Saudi Arabia’s actions. But harsh words cannot spark corrective measures because they seem to have little to no effect on the international community. Verbal condemnation rarely persuades a government to act appropriately. Syria, North Korea and China have all received criticism for inhumane treatment of people in the past, but have not changed their justice systems.

To some, Nafeek is just one person. But when Saudi Arabia currently holds 50 other maids on death row, it is clear that the world must wake up and confront governments that perpetuate injustice. In the past, the U.S. has employed economic sanctions against China following gross human rights violations, such as the Tiananmen massacre. Yet the Peterson Institute for International Economics notes that economic sanctions, though usually effective, are not very common. Thus, further utilizing this measure is necessary in coercing these nations into acting in accordance with international norms that emphasize fair judicial processes.

The world has failed to conduct humanitarian interventions where millions have died. The merciless governments of Rwanda, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo are just a few of those that have slaughtered innocent persons. The international community barely blinked at their actions because they had no personal investments in these areas.

Admittedly, intervention requires the use of resources. Governments are wary of contributing aid for the purpose of stopping crimes in other regions because it might not appear to be their problem. Yet discarding this selfish approach to handling the world’s tribulations could rid our planet of unnecessary bloodshed. If the international community prioritized valuing all lives instead of valuing just some, change would come.

America prides itself on providing equality and opportunity for its people. But how can its citizens watch silently as other human beings are denied their basic rights?

Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad. Siti Zaenab. Tuti Tursilawati binti Warjuki. Darmawati binti Taryani. Siti Aminah.

The International Business Times reports these names are just few of the women currently on Saudi Arabia’s death row without access to a fair legal process. If the United States and the international community does not act now, more blood will spill.

In the end, Americans have the duty to ensure a fair justice system for fellow citizens around the globe. To simply ignore injustice would be to accept the principle of ending up in Nafeek’s situation, with the truth silenced and with no one to speak up for them.

Rini Sampath is a freshman majoring in international relations. 


The American government cannot waste time and resources attacking systems different from our own. 

 Sometimes, it is difficult for Americans to appreciate the gift of being born in the United States. Privileges that are taken for granted, such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression, are distant ideas for most of the world’s population. We admire our way of life, venerate it and will do anything to protect it. So why do we feel the need to attack other governments for their own time-tested systems and way of life?The execution of Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek under the Saudi Arabian regime is a tragic occurrence. The majority of us will never know what truly happened — whether or not she actually murdered the infant she was supposed to take care of or whether it was simply an accident of choking on milk, as she argued, according to CNN. To jump to conclusions ourselves would be to ignore contradictory evidence, including the reports of several human rights groups saying that she admitted to her crime under duress .And we will never know what took place behind the closed doors of her trial. The Saudi Arabian government is known for being extremely discreet and, though human rights groups claim that Nafeek was offered no due process of law and desired the intervention of some of the world’s powers, for all we know she could have had an extremely legitimate trial. We’re just not sure.This case is not so black and white — there are many factors that go into this puzzling conundrum. The Saudi Arabian government claims that Nafeek was twenty-one when she committed the crime, while human rights groups claim that she was only seventeen. But what is black and white is where the rest of the world fits into all of this.No matter what we personally might believe, and no matter how uncomfortable it is to understand that Saudi Arabia beheaded at least 79 people in 2012 and three in the first month of 2013 alone, it is not the duty of the U.S.  government to intervene on the behalf of non-citizens. Beside the fact that American resources are limited and our country itself is barely running smoothly, it is imperative that we respect the rights and practices of other countries.

Of course, this standard should not apply to such atrocities as genocide or devastating international wars, where intervention is vital for the world’s benefit. In extreme cases, one does need to stand up and fight for others, even if it does not concern them.

But every time that a non-U.S. citizen or resident falls into trouble outside of our borders, the government cannot immediately put everything down and go save him or her. For Rizana Nafeek, the Sri Lankan government did everything that it could but, unfortunately, its influence could not help.

Making the situation even more sensitive is that fact that U.S. relations in the Middle East have been in a tricky limbo for decades. By butting our heads into an issue that does not concern us, we would only be poking the beast more, with no assurance that our intervention will have a lasting positive impact.

Just because we are American does not mean that we always know what is right. But more importantly, just because we are American does not mean that we can tell other governments how to lead their countries. Our duty is to protect our citizens first and foremost, and by attempting to interfere in other governments, we would only be endangering the welfare of our own.

Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in critical studies. She is also the Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan. 


1 reply
    HLANGL says:

    It may not & should not be entirely up to US, yes, well accepted. But definitely UN (United Nations) should more actively intervene certain cases, i.e. they should have spine to question the whole trail proceedings which led to that gruesome beheading of the young woman last week in Saudi Arabia, despite not having any conclusive evidence what so ever. Just issuing a media statement condemning the act would not be sufficient at all. A government/regime accepted by UN should answer to UN, they shouldn’t be allowed to merely escape from this mentioning its one of their internal affairs & just condemning the poor already murdered accused without any proven facts. If UN don’t wish to question this now, I’m not sure what are they waiting for or for whom they are waiting for to intervene & question this gruesome, callous, selfish, mindless act done in the name of their said creator Allah. Some utter irresponsibility is seen in the response from the Saud Arabian government/regime (see below given links, there may be hundreds of other sources on web) condemning the international criticism over the act they committed last week, may be they are expecting the international community to produce the appeal before their said creator Allah, in this 21st century… This had been a gruesome killing done by a legal system belonging to a UN-accepted regime, so they should answer how they had come to the conclusion that the accused had actually committed the crime, how can they run a murder trial without even conducting any postmortem in this 21st century, without any proper translator/interpreter while the entire court proceedings are carried out in Arabic; a language the accused doesn’t properly understand to handle in a tricky situation like this, no proper unbiased legal assistance/lawyer for the accused, basically nothing for her defense in this virtually unknown environment to her having landed in Saudi only a couple of weeks back when the whole drama began in mid 2005.

    See below the response from Saudi.
    Is UN having any plans or spine to question this entire drama ?. In the name of humanity, they should.




    Just 3 of a few thousands of articles on web…

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