Victims of U.S. Human Rights Violations Tell Their Stories at U.N. Meeting in Geneva

July 14, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

ACLU and U.S. Human Rights Network Host Panel in Advance of U.S. Session with Rights Committee

VIDEO

> Father Roy Bourgeois
> Reverend Lois Dejean
> Khaled El-Masri
> Jessica Gonzales

STATEMENTS
> Father Roy Bourgeois
> Khaled El-Masri
> Jessica Gonzales

MORE
> ACLU Statement to 87th Session of United Nations Human Rights Committee
> Illegal FBI / JTTF Spying
> Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzales
> Extraordinary Rendition
> Dimming the Beacon of Freedom (Report to ICCPR)

GENEVA — The American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Human Rights Network hosted a panel today of people who have been victimized by the U.S. government's failure to uphold civil and political rights. On Monday, the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) is scheduled to review the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a major international human rights treaty ratified by the United State in 1992.

"When the U.S. government fails to protect basic rights there's a very tragic human toll," said Ann Beeson, Director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program. "We call on the international community to condemn the U.S. government for policies that violate the civil and political rights of all."

The HRC's review will be based on the official U.S. report that was submitted last October, more than seven years after it was due. The United States' appearance before the committee will be its second since ratification and the first since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the "global war on terror."

In June the ACLU submitted a comprehensive report to the HRC condemning the U.S. government for failing to comply with its treaty obligations to protect and preserve a range of human rights protections at home and abroad. Drawing particular attention to some of the most vulnerable members of society, including women, children, minorities, immigrants and the accused, the ACLU offered detailed recommendations to bring the U.S. in line with universally recognized human rights standards.

The report, Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, documents the United States record on human rights in five areas: national security, women's rights, racial justice, immigrants rights and religious freedom.
"What I am seeking is an acknowledgement that the CIA is responsible for what happened to me, an explanation as to why this happened, and an apology," said Khaled El Masri, a victim of extraordinary rendition who spoke on the Voices of Victims panel. "It is my hope that the Human Rights Committee will hold the U.S. government accountable for the abuse I have suffered."

Also on the panel were Father Roy Bourgeois, head of "School of the Americas Watch," who was spied on for years by the FBI for organizing peaceful protests; Jessica Gonzales, a victim of domestic violence whose estranged husband killed her three young daughters after police failed to enforce a restraining order against him; Marshan Allen, who was incarcerated as a juvenile and is presently being held for life with no opportunity for parole (participated via a taped video statement); Reverend Lois Dejean, a resident of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina; and Anthony Holmes, a victim of torture at the hands of the Chicago Police Department (participated via a taped video statement).

The ACLU's new Human Rights Program is dedicated to holding the U.S. government accountable to universally recognized human rights principles. The Human Rights Program is charged with incorporating international human rights strategies into ACLU advocacy on issues relating to national security, immigrants' rights, women's rights and racial justice.

The ACLU delegation to the HRC includes Beeson, Jamil Dakwar and Chandra Bhatnagar, from the ACLU Human Rights Program, Laleh Ispahani, Senior Policy Council at the ACLU, Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project, Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan, Gary Weber, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia, and Nsombi Lambright, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi.

The testimony panel and client statements will be available for viewing on the Internet later today, at: 
www.aclu.org/humanrights

Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is available online at:
www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/25924pub20060620.html

The ACLU's statement that was presented at the opening session of the HRC is available online at:
www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/26097leg20060710.html

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