An international human rights body is set to question the United States on its obligations under a key human rights treaty. The U.N. Human Rights Committee, an independent body of experts tasked with monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), this week released its list of issues, which will serve as the basis for its upcoming review of U.S. compliance with the treaty. The U.S. ratified the ICCPR in 1992 and is obligated to submit to periodic reviews of its treaty implementation efforts.
As the list of issues demonstrates, the U.S. has some serious explaining to do about how its laws and policies comport with its treaty obligations in areas ranging from the right to life, to racial discrimination, to cruel and inhumane treatment. The large list includes requests for information on:
- Measures restricting the right to vote, whether through felon disfranchisement or restrictive voter ID laws;
- Human rights violations in immigration detention and enforcement, from racial profiling to shooting deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border;
- Racial disparities in the criminal justice system (consider, for example, the fact that one out of 15 black males over the age of 18 in the U.S. is incarcerated, compared with one in every 106 white males over 18);
- The targeted killing program and lack of accountability for torture;
- The use of the death penalty and solitary confinement, especially on children and persons with mental disabilities;
- Trafficking and domestic violence;
- Rights for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The ACLU, along with human rights organizations around the country, has been advocating before the Human Rights Committee to ensure that these and other vital issues are brought into the spotlight during its review of the U.S. record. On Human Rights Day last year, we submitted a "list of issues" report highlighting key issues and providing recommendations to the U.S. government. (Reports from the ACLU and other NGOs are available online.) The ACLU also co-chairs the U.S. Human Rights Network ICCPR Task Force, which facilitates both NGO participation in this important treaty body review process and advocacy before the Human Rights Committee.
The U.S. has 60 days to respond in writing to the committee's questions, and in October will be subject to a formal review in Geneva. We hope the U.S. will use this opportunity to openly and honestly assess its compliance with its international human rights obligations, and work with civil society to formulate concrete actions for full implementation the treaty on the federal, state, and local level, ensuring that its human rights promises become a reality.