CHICAGO -- December 9 -- With the U.S. facing charges of alleged human rights abuses at prison camps in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a first-of-its kind report issued Friday by Chicago-based Heartland Alliance documents human rights violations occurring here at home.|
Released to coincide with Human Rights Day 2004, In Our Own Back Yard -- Human Rights in the Heartland presents case studies of those in the Midwest who've experienced violations of human rights standards.
The report centers around 10 major areas -- from slavery to homelessness -- where standards set forth in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948) have not been fully met in the Midwest. Pseudonyms were used in the case studies to protect individuals' identities; their stories were compiled through interviews conducted by direct service providers from Heartland Alliance, which authored the study.
The mistreatment described in the report challenges the image of the United States as a place where human rights are sacrosanct, according to Heartland Alliance President Sid Mohn.
"Historically, the United States has been regarded as the world's greatest champion of human rights, but this report demonstrates that we don't have to look overseas to discover human rights abuses -- they're happening in our own neighborhoods," Mohn said.
The violations identified in the report include instances of:
- Human Trafficking
- Cruel or Inhumane Treatment
- Arbitrary Arrest and Detention
- Withholding Access to Political Asylum
- Chronic and Widespread Poverty
- Scarce Affordable Housing
- Inadequate Health Care
- Improper Care of Elderly
Violations within each of these areas occurred in the Midwest over the past two years. Mohn noted that while physical violence and other graphic atrocities often dominate the discussion of human rights, the issue also encompasses more subtle injustices, such as economic disparities and racial, ethnic, and cultural mistreatment. The report breaks new ground by demonstrating how prevalent those human rights problems are within the world's richest, most powerful nation, he said.
To remedy the kinds of violations documented in the report, Heartland recommended a wide range of reforms. Among those policy changes, the report urged Congress to:
- Increase the federal minimum wage -- with a corresponding increase at the state level -- to afford working families the means to escape poverty
- Eliminate the one-year limitation on filing for asylum, because it violates international standards
- Raise the limit on the number of asylees eligible for lawful permanent residence
To access the Human Rights report, go to http://www.heartlandalliance.org/creatingchange/research.html