The U.S. failed to show up to a human rights hearing in an "unprecedented show of disrespect to the international community," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Tuesday.
In a surprise move, the government ditched a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the Organization of American States, where the ACLU had planned to drill officials on the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration; its ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries; and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), among other issues.
The civil rights group had filed an emergency request for the meeting in February, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. That order, as well as its follow-up mandate, issued last month, have since been suspended.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's human rights program, said the absence was a "deeply troubling" signal from the White House.
"Today's no-show is a new low. The Trump administration's decision is an unprecedented show of disrespect to the international community that will alienate democratic allies," Dakwar said. "Refusing to engage with the commission is an isolationist policy that mirrors the behavior of authoritarian regimes and will only serve to embolden them. This is another worrying sign that the Trump administration is not only launching an assault on human rights at home but is also trying to undermine international bodies charged with holding abusive governments accountable."
The government was expected to send representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the State Department.
"In the past, when U.S. governments have sought to express displeasure at having their records scrutinized, they have occasionally protested by sending lower-level officials," Dakwar wrote in a blog post later Tuesday. "But today's refusal to engage the commission at all is a deeply troubling indication of its disrespect for human rights norms and the institutions that oversee their protection."
"Survivors of the U.S. post-9/11 torture program have appealed to it, and even the Bush administration defended its policies before the IACHR," he added.
Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua have all given testimony to the council this week. More countries are facing scrutiny Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Let's hope the no-show is temporary, and not a sign of what's to come," Dakwar wrote.