NEW YORK - March 16 - The American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Human Rights
Network today urged the U.N. Human Rights Committee to hold the U.S. government
accountable for flagrant and repeated violations of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
“Locally, nationally and globally, the United States has repeatedly failed in
its responsibility to uphold basic human rights,” said Ann Beeson, Associate
Legal Director of the ACLU. “We are appealing to the international
arbiters to hold the U.S. accountable to basic human rights standards.”
The organizations convened two panels of experts and victims to discuss
racial discrimination and human rights violations exposed by the U.S.
government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. government’s abuse of
power, specifically specifically illegal electronic surveillance and the torture
and abuse of people detained in the war on terror. The panels ran in
conjunction with the 86th session of the U.N. Human Rights Committee.
The Committee was established to monitor the implementation of the ICCPR, a
treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1992. 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 advocates urged the Committee to include
questions raised at today’s sessions when they review the U.S. report to the
body in Geneva in July.
The first panel discussion presented evidence of racial discrimination and
human rights that came to light in the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane
Katrina, including the effects on communities of color, immigrant workers,
families and children.
“If the fundamental rights of displaced people apply in countries far less
able to cope with such disasters, they certainly apply here," said Ajamu Baraka,
Executive Director of U.S. Human Rights Network. “We must not compound the
plight of the displaced by letting them fend for themselves once the dust has
settled. If we accept that it will take years to rebuild New Orleans, we must
also accept that it will take no less time to rebuild the lives of the
Abuse of Power: Torture and Surveillance in America was the theme of the
second panel which covered testimony and evidence of the erosion of the rule of
law and rights protections as exhibited by the administration’s torture,
detention and spying policies.
“Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks the U.S. government has invoked national
security and abused executive powers to violate internationally recognized human
rights, including the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman
or degrading treatment,” said Jamil Dakwar, an attorney with the ACLU Human
Rights Working Group. “If the U.S. does not recognize its human rights
obligations under international law, what reason do other governments have to
uphold human rights?”
Last October, the U.S. 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; the
government claimed 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.
The U.S. Human Rights Network is a coalition of more
than 170 organizations and 300 individuals working on the full spectrum of human
rights issues. Formed to promote U.S. adherence to universal human rights
standards by building links between organizations across the nation, the Network
strives to promote a human rights culture that puts those directly affected by
human rights violations in a central leadership role. The Network also works to
connect the U.S. human rights movement with the broader U.S. social justice
movement and human rights movements around the world.
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.
Information about the ACLU’s work on post-Katrina issues, including recently
released photographs of the Orleans Parish Prison, is available online at: www.aclu.org/hurricanerelief
Information about government surveillance is available online at: www.aclu.org/spyfiles
Documents received by the ACLU that detail torture and abuse of detainees are
available online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia