July 10, 2006

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U.N. Committee Convenes to Evaluate Abysmal U.S. Human Rights Record

NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today charged the U.S. government with failure to uphold civil and political rights and expressed grave concerns over serious setbacks in rights protections over the past several years.

An ACLU delegation arrives this week in Geneva to brief the 18 human rights experts of the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) and to monitor the committee's examination of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a major international human rights treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1992.

"Respect for universal human rights begins at home and not though public relations campaigns and programs to promote human rights overseas," said Jamil Dakwar, an attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The commitment of the U.S. to civil and political rights has proven to be hollow for many American citizens and non-citizens who suffered from U.S. policies and actions in the United States and abroad."

A U.S. delegation will appear before the HRC on July 17 and 18 to answer questions about the implementation of the ICCPR. The session will be based on the official U.S. report that was submitted last October, more than seven years after it was due. The U.S. 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 a statement presented at the opening session of the meeting in Geneva, the ACLU repeated its call to hold the U.S. government accountable for human rights violations and demanded that the U.S. government restore respect for cherished civil and political rights particularly those of minority and vulnerable groups.

"In the last decade, and since the last time the United States appeared before this committee, we have witnessed serious setbacks in the protection of civil and political rights within the U.S.," said the ACLU in its formal statement. "We have also witnessed a backlash against human rights in the name of national security which has affected large numbers of persons in the U.S. and abroad."

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 U.S. record on human rights in five areas: national security, women's rights, racial justice, immigrants rights and religious freedom.

ACLU affiliates across the country have recognized that human rights begin at home and have embarked on a campaign to educate Americans about their human rights under the ICCPR, to demand U.S. accountability for human rights violations, and to call for the protection and realization of human rights on the local, state and federal level.

To illustrate the impact of many of the U.S. policies, the ACLU and the U.S. Human Rights Network are hosting a panel of victims of U.S. human rights violations in Geneva on Friday July 14, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Centre de Conferences de Varembe (CCV), 9 - 11 Rue de Varambe. The panel will consist of Khalid El-Masri, a victim of the CIA's policy of "extraordinary rendition;" Father Roy Bourgeois, who was illegally spied on by the FBI under the guise of a counter-terrorism investigation; 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 (participating 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 (participating 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 broader ACLU delegation to the HRC includes Dakwar, Ann Beeson, the ACLU Associate Legal Director, Chandra Bhatnagar, an attorney with 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.

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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