ACLU Condemns U.S. for Failing to Uphold Civil and Political Rights

June 20, 2006 12:00 am

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Report Documenting Abuses Submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee and Released on National Day of Action

NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union today released a report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee 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 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.

“America should be a beacon of freedom throughout the world, not a country that violates the basic human rights of its own people,” said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU.

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.

The Human Rights Committee is the U.N. body of experts charged with monitoring countries compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the primary human rights treaty. The United States ratified the treaty in 1992. The committee will review the official submission of the U.S. government on July 17 and 18 in Geneva. The ACLU will send a delegation to present the report and monitor the proceedings.

Dimming the Beacon of Freedom provides a detailed description of human rights violations in the United States. In addition to the impact of these rights violations on other vulnerable groups in the U.S., the report highlights how in the wake on September 11, 2001, Arabs, Muslims and South Asians, and to some extent all immigrants, were victims of discriminatory targeting by the government. It draws attention to the erosion of the right to privacy, discussing expanded surveillance and the government’s growing use of the states secret privilege to avoid accountability for abuses.

The ACLU recommendations urge the United States to:

  • Ensure that federal judicial remedies are available to all persons detained in the “war on terror,” including immigrants, minorities, women and undocumented persons;
  • Thoroughly and promptly investigate all allegations of torture and abuse in the U.S. or U.S.-controlled prisons, jails and other detention facilities;
  • Immediately end the illegal practice of rendering individuals to secret detention facilities or to countries known to participate in torture;
  • Cease and desist domestic surveillance of Americans without probable cause and prior judicial approval;
  • Reform the nation’s immigration policy and ensure its compliance with human rights standards;
  • Curtail the excessive secrecy in the administration of justice;
  • Require states to properly fund and supervise their indigent defense systems;
  • Repeal laws that convict women based on who they associate with rather than their conduct;
  • Reduce minority over-representation in juvenile detention systems;
  • Allow all citizens, regardless of their criminal history, to vote; or, as an alternative, require all states to restore voting rights upon completion of a criminal sentence; and,
  • Effectively plan for crises such as Hurricane Katrina, including seeking meaningful participation from the community at all stages.

“The government’s actions in the post- 9/11 period – ill-treatment of Muslims and immigrants, secrecy in the administration of justice, erosion of American’s right to privacy, restrictions on rights of assembly and freedom of expression — as well as its indifference to the African Americans most devastated by Hurricane Katrina, reveal its nonchalance where human rights at home are concerned,” said Laleh Ispahani, Senior Policy Counsel at the ACLU.

Accompanying the release of the report, ACLU affiliates across the country are recognizing that human rights begin at home with a day of action in Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan and Texas. The intent of the day is 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. Representatives from these ACLU affiliates will be part of the delegation traveling to Geneva next month.

Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is available online at

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.

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