Opinion: U.N. Says Trump-GOP “Obamacare” Repeal Violates International Law

It is no exaggeration to state that according to most human beings with a conscience, withholding medical care when it is available is the definition of barbaric. In fact, in every industrialized nation on Earth, and even developing countries, healthcare is considered as basic a human right as clean water. Of course, that isn’t the case in the richest nation on the planet and that fact garnered the attention of the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR).

When House Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) yesterday, they revelled in a feat the U.N. said was a violation of several international treaties; primarily “the right to social security of the people in the United States.” Trump knew repealing “Obamacare” was “at odds with America’s international obligations” because he received a letter in the form of a “confidential, five-page ‘urgent appeal’ from the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva.

The reason very, very few Americans are aware of the U.N.s warning to Trump is because although it was issued on February 2, 2017, it would have been “lost” if not for a “leak” to congressional Democratic leadership by someone in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

That “leak” was necessary because, despite the U.N.’s OHCHR request that copies of the letter be sent to the majority and minority leadership in both chambers of Congress, Trump kept it concealed. The U.N. High Commissioner wanted congressional leaders and “the wider public [to] be alerted to the potential implications of the above-mentioned allegations.” The allegations are deep concerns that Trump and Republicans have no intention to take “adequate measure to prevent their occurrence as well as to guarantee the accountability of any person responsible.” The “alleged violations” are taking away health care coverage for almost 30 million people the United Nations says is a violation of “the right to social security of the people in the United States.

It was fortunate that Washington Post writer Dana Milbank obtained a copy of the letter last week and reported that upon inquiries “no member of the Congressional leadership” ever received a copy  or notice of the letter; Nancy Pelosi, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer were all completely unaware it existed. One State Department spokesperson told Milbank that his “inquiry was the first I’m hearing of this.

Not that anyone in Trump’s administration or Republican Congress would pay any heed to the U.N.’s urging that “all necessary interim measures be taken to prevent the alleged violations” of taking healthcare from tens-of-millions of Americans. The letter also stated that if the “allegations” proved correct, there be “adequate measure to prevent their occurrence as well as to guarantee the accountability of any person responsible.”

The persons responsible are Trump and now House Republicans, but there is no possibility, much less a guarantee, that anyone will be held accountable; Republicans have been taking away basic human rights and necessities from the American people for decades with impunity and great personal satisfaction.

The U.N letter’s author, Dainius Puras, is the United Nations’ “Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”  Mr. Puras writes that Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Establishes everyone’s right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being, including food, medical care and necessary social services.”

He also said that Article 5(e) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, “ratified by the United States in 1994,” calls on states to “guarantee the right[s] of everyone.” That includes “the rights to public health, medical care, social security and social services” without regard to race or color.(author bold)

The special rapporteur also cited that as a signatory, America has an obligation under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties to comply with “the core obligation to ensure the right of access to health facilities, goods and services on a non-discriminatory basis, especially for vulnerable or marginalized groups.” Although only a “signatory,” America is still “obliged to refrain from acts that would defeat the covenant’s object or purpose, in conformity with Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

One can say with confidence that even if Trump had acquiesced to the “urgent appeal” to comply with international treaties, or ‘share’ the U.N.’s letter with congressional leadership, House Republicans would have voted precisely as they did on Thursday. It may be true that sharing the appeal with the “wider public” may have had an effect on their opinions, but Republicans still would have voted to take healthcare from tens-of-millions of Americans. Republicans are well-aware that the ACA is popular with the people, but they have never demonstrated any willingness to legislate according to the will of the people.

The U.N.’s Human Rights Commission has condemned Republican acts in the past, including less than a month ago when it harshly criticized Republican states for legislation criminalizing peaceful protests on Trump’s behalf. Still, those anti-First Amendment bills are working their way through Republican legislatures with no sign of slowing down. Three years ago the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission condemned America’s mistreatment, and criminalization of homeless people as well as a separate condemnation for not providing its citizens with clean water; all to no avail.

The reality is that Republicans could not care less what international laws, treaties or conventions their draconian measures violate; they could not care less what Americans think of their draconian measures. Their jobs, as they see them, are to take any and everything possible from the people and it explains precisely why they celebrated like drunken frat boys at taking healthcare away from tens-of-millions of Americans who are also predominately their staunchest supporters.

h/t DanaMilbank

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