March 13, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

Illegal Spying and Patriot Act Flaws Highlighted in Testimony Today

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today criticized the United States for violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a major human rights treaty the U.S. ratified in 1992.  In remarks to the 86th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the ACLU called for a rigorous investigation into violations of the treaty.  

“In the name of national security, the Bush administration has eroded the rule of law and the system of checks and balances in the United States, both fundamental principles in any democracy,” said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU, who presented today’s testimony. “In our America, we will not tolerate illegal spying or torture. The ACLU calls on the Human Rights committee to join us in our effort to hold the U.S. government accountable.”   

In a statement read today at the opening session of the Human Rights Committee, the ACLU said: “In the last four years we have witnessed serious setbacks in the protection of civil and political rights within the United States.  The U.S. government has instituted a number of unbalanced and unchecked policies that clearly undermine fundamental rights and liberties long recognized and honored in our country.  These policies affect a broad range of issues, including women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, racial justice, national security and the freedom of religion and belief.” 

The ACLU also provided details in its testimony about remaining flaws in the recently reauthorized Patriot Act and on the illegal National Security Agency spying program. 
 
“America cannot hold itself as a moral beacon to the world if it violates the rule of law by engaging in illegal spying, torture and secrecy,” said Jamil Dakwar, an attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Working Group. “The ACLU is committed to making sure that our government complies with universally recognized human rights principles and upholds our Constitution.”  

Last October, the United States submitted its second and third periodic reports to the U.N. Human Rights Committee which oversees the implementation of the Covenant by the 152 signatory member states. The U.S. report was seven years overdue and did not include information on U.S. conformity with the Covenant overseas, claiming the treaty does not apply beyond U.S. soil and therefore is not applicable to U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The full review session of the U.S. report by the 18 members of the Human Rights Committee will take place next July in Geneva. Meanwhile, at the end of its New York session the Committee will publish a list of questions and issues to be considered at the meeting in Geneva with representatives of the U.S. government.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee was established to monitor the implementation of the ICCPR. It is composed of 18 independent experts with recognized competence in the field of human rights. The Committee meets three times a year for sessions of three weeks' duration, normally in March at United Nations headquarters in New York and in July and November at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

The ACLU's new Human Rights Working Group is dedicated to holding the U.S. government accountable to universally recognized human rights principles. The Human Rights Working Group 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.

ACLU’s statement to the Human Rights Committee is available online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/24498leg20060313.html

In September 2005, the ACLU submitted a full list of issues of concern to the Human Rights Committee regarding counter-terrorism measures adopted by the United States.  It is available online at www.aclu.org/FilesPDFs/acluhrcsubmissionsept2.pdf 

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