This November, for the first time, the U.S. will face close scrutiny of its human rights record in a formal U.N. process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Preparation began in January of this year, when U.S. officials first met with members of civil society to identify and address the nation’s most pressing, ongoing human rights issues. From January through April, various federal departments and agencies participated in these meetings including the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Education, Health and Human Services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House. The U.S. government engaged with numerous human rights advocates in cities across the country: New Orleans, New York, El Paso, Albuquerque and Window Rock, New Mexico, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, and Washington, DC.
The ACLU and its state affiliates were well represented in these meetings; staff offered compelling testimonies on issues ranging from equal access to quality education, counter-terrorism policies, immigrants rights and criminal justice. In April, the ACLU submitted a 10-page report
focusing on access to justice and the right to effective remedy. The information provided by the ACLU and other members of civil society will be used by the U.N. Human Rights Council to review the U.S.’ report to the Council, due on August 23, 2010.
Summaries of the consultations
, released by the Department of State earlier this month, mention concerns that cover the full spectrum of human rights issues that demand prompt attention at federal, state, and local levels. Jamil Dakwar
, director of the ACLU Human Rights Program, is hopeful that “this process will help bring U.S. policies in line with international human rights standards by shining a light on domestic human rights issues and holding state, local and federal government accountable to our human rights obligations.” The robust participation of advocates united in this and other U.N. processes, with the support of the U.S. Human Rights Network
, should serve as proof that the human rights movement is alive and rapidly gaining momentum in the U.S. as people boldly fight for the acknowledgement and respect of their human dignity.