Group Calls For Reform To Address Human Rights Violations
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NEW YORK – The U.S. government today submitted its first-ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC). As part of the UPR process, nations report to the HRC on their efforts to strengthen human rights commitments and comply with international human rights standards. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the U.S. participation in the UPR process as an important step toward turning the Obama administration's stated commitment to protecting human rights into tangible policies. However, the group said the report omits many issues that need significant improvement and doesn't present a full picture of the state of human rights in the U.S. The ACLU called on the Obama administration to address existing human rights violations and urged policy reform in order to comply with U.S. human rights obligations.
"While this report demonstrates the Obama administration's willingness to recommit to engagement on international human rights, the administration must now prove that it is prepared to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "It is time for the U.S. to match its human rights rhetoric with concrete domestic policies and actions and create a human rights culture and infrastructure that promote American values of equality and justice for all."
According to the ACLU, the U.S. report correctly acknowledges the need for improvement in several key areas, including racial justice, women's rights, LGBT rights and discrimination against Muslims and Americans of South Asian and Arab descent. However, the report neglects to address other key areas where the U.S. has failed to meet its human rights obligations, including felon disfranchisement, inhumane prison conditions, racial disparities in the death penalty system and deaths and abuse in immigration detention. The report also defends the use of military commissions to try terrorism suspects, despite the fact that military commissions pose significant human and civil rights violations.
"The UPR process provides an opportunity for the United States to identify human rights violations, develop real solutions and bring our policies in line with international human rights standards," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "There is no better time to reflect honestly and exhaustively on our country's human rights record and to find a path forward toward correcting our faults. The administration should continue to work with all relevant federal agencies and Congress until we can safely say the U.S. is beyond reproach when it comes to human rights."
As part of the UPR process, U.S. officials from various federal departments and agencies including the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Education and Health and Human Services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House met earlier this year with human rights advocates, including representatives of several ACLU offices across the country, to identify and address the nation's most pressing, ongoing human rights issues.
The ACLU also submitted a report on the state of human rights in the U.S. to the HRC in April 2010. The report, which focused on access to justice for all people and the lack of effective remedies for human rights violations, is available online at: www.aclu.org/human-rights/un-universal-periodic-review-submission
The UNHRC will review the U.S. report in November.