For Immediate Release
U.S. Human Rights Review Both Necessary and Worthwhile
Civil Society Report Details Issues Still To Be Addressed
WASHINGTON - The report on human rights in the United States submitted by the
State Department to the United Nations on August 20 has been met with criticism
from conservative quarters. Most recently, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer demanded
that an innocuous mention of Arizona’s
controversial immigration law be removed from the report. The criticisms
demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding about the purpose of the
report, prepared as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process that
examines the human rights records of all U.N. member states every four years. Moreover,
a comprehensive report of domestic human rights issues coordinated and released
by the US Human Rights Network
clearly demonstrates that the problems addressed in the government report are
not only real, but understated.
That report, now available in hard copy as well as online, consists of
26 separate submissions by civil society groups and human rights advocates
covering a sweeping range of human rights topics. The report lays out the
existing human rights frameworks in the U.S.; notes the lack of a coordinating
authority or other adequate monitoring and enforcement mechanisms; highlights significant
and specific shortcomings in domestic compliance with international human
rights standards; and makes recommendations on how the U.S. can better meet those
standards and live up to its treaty obligations. More than 200 non-governmental
organizations and hundreds of advocates across the country have endorsed the
report, which took almost a year to research and produce and was also submitted
to the U.N. as part of the UPR process.
Since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948,
administrations and Congress have signed and ratified key international
agreements that set forth a series of obligations and standards to which each participating
nation must adhere. The UPR simply examines each nation’s compliance with
those obligations. Rather than an abrogation of national sovereignty or
kowtowing to repressive regimes, as some have characterized the process, the
review provides positive opportunities for self-examination and to advance
human rights on the ground for all U.S. residents. “Refusing to
acknowledge that the U.S.
can make any improvements in its human rights policies and practices misses a
critical opportunity for the U.S.
to demonstrate the need for governments to hold themselves accountable to their
constituents at home,” says University of Pennsylvania Law School
Practice Associate Professor Sarah Paoletti, Senior Coordinator for the
Network’s UPR Project. “Enhancing human rights at home will only
strengthen the nation’s standing and influence abroad, and we should
embrace the challenge.”
For more information on the US Human Rights
Network report and the UPR, please visit http://www.ushrnetwork.org/
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