In an Unprecedented No-Show, the U.S. Pulls Out of Planned Human Rights Hearing

The United States has pulled its participation from hearings planned for today by a regional human rights body that has enjoyed the support of every U.S. administration since its founding.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is meeting in Washington, D.C., for a regular session covering human rights issues spanning North and South America. The hearings today are scheduled to cover the Trump administration’s attempt to ban immigration from six predominantly Muslim countries, its immigration enforcement and detention policies, and its approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The ACLU is testifying on Tuesday at hearings that can be livestreamed here.

In the past, when U.S. governments have sought to express displeasure at having their records scrutinized, they have occasionally protested by sending lower-level officials. But 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.

The IACHR is an independent body of the Organization of American States, which brings together all 35 independent countries in the Americas. The U.S. has long been a champion of the work of the commission. While it has no enforcement mechanisms, its mandate is to promote human rights and examine violations in all OAS member states. The IACHR is often the only venue where victims of egregious human rights violations can seek a measure of recourse in the absence of accountability in their own countries. Survivors of the U.S. post-9/11 torture program have appealed to it, and even the Bush administration defended its policies before the IACHR.

The United States’ record isn’t the only one under scrutiny during this session. In the last several days, the commission has heard extensive testimony on the human rights situation in Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, with additional countries to face review today and tomorrow.

After word of the U.S. absence spread, the State Department responded by stating that “it is not appropriate for the United States to participate in these hearings while litigation on these matters is ongoing in U.S. courts,” in reference to lawsuits against the government’s Muslim ban. But that doesn’t explain why it wouldn’t attend another hearing regarding a Japanese-Peruvian man who was rounded up with thousands of other Latin Americans, deported to a World War II-era internment camp, and denied redress to this day. It also doesn't explain why the Bush and Obama administrations appeared before the commission for hearings on CIA torture, Guantánamo, immigration detention, and prison issues, even though there was pending litigation at the time.

The Trump administration’s refusal to engage with an independent human rights body, which has played a historic role in fighting impunity and barbaric military dictatorships in the region, sets a dangerous precedent that mirrors the behavior of authoritarian regimes and will only serve to embolden them. 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. Rather it’s upping the ante and weakening the institutions that hold abusive governments accountable.

Let’s hope the no-show is temporary, and not a sign of what’s to come.

This post has been updated to reflect the State Department's response. 

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That's all well and good, except this isn't a business. It's a country. You cannot run a country like a business and expect the populace to be happy about it. It doesn't with like that.

E. Tarhan

This looks like a very small part of a carefully planned, timed, and executed series of actions targeting the demolition of the administrative structure of the country. The first step is catching the public unaware, the second is to render them senseless by breaking increasingly large pieces of the system, the third is to disintegrate the connections among various vital administrative functions, creating a state structure in chaos. Then comes the re-weaving of the state in the desired shape. CIA has an extensive experience on the subject. What they have accomplished in other countries, they are applying now in the homeland. Anybody wondering about the current extent of their methods should study the developments in Turkey during the last 10-15 years. The same things that have happened in Turkey are now happening in the U.S. You are warned, folks!


No. First to eliminate belief in a greater being and replace it with government. Then give away food, phones, healthcare, guns and make them dependent on us. Call it progressive and liberal and destroy truth and tradition and then we got them.


Absolutely! Enough Said!

Terry Sloan

Thank you Jamil for this report. The United States use to be the leader in Human and Civil rights. Wish I could have been there. I only hope those charged with addressing these issues for the United States had a good reason for not attending.

Peswold von Peswold

Yes it's a sign of exactly what the Republican attitude is all about. Take care of the Good Ol' Boys of the American psuedo-aristocracy, and just keep treading on the bodies of the aged, sick, dying, non-white masses until their bottom line starts to shrink. Why attack the Chinese amorality and population media and news control when the USA becomes more and more like them by the day? Human rights is absolutely NOT a concern of this administration. No respect, even for other world leaders.


I make it a point never to impute cleverness to the American voter.


This is terrible! I hope the other participants know that not all Americans endorse this stupid action.


Adolf Hitler, is reincarnated.I SCREAM, HELP.


I am not sure who this anonymous guy is that calls everyone a moron but all I hear from republicans is how the other side is the one calling people names. One he has his head in the sand and is the reason the rest of the world is laughing at the U.S


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