The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

United States Undergoes First-Ever Universal Periodic Review Before U.N. Human Rights Council Today In Geneva

U.S. Must Bring Domestic Human Rights In Line With International Standards, Says ACLU


U.S. government underwent the first-ever Universal Periodic Review
(UPR) of its human rights record before the U.N. Human Rights Council
(HRC) today in Geneva. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the
U.S. participation in the UPR process as an important step toward
protecting human rights at home, and said there are still many areas
that need significant improvement 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

"The Obama administration should be commended for its participation in
the UPR, which represents an important opportunity to address critical
domestic human rights challenges. But in order to lead by example, this
international engagement must be followed by concrete domestic policies
and actions and a commitment to fixing all domestic human rights abuses -
not just the ones that are most convenient," said Jamil Dakwar,
Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "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 shortcomings. The
administration should take specific actions to assure domestic human
rights are effectively monitored and enforced within the United States."

As part of the UPR process, the U.S. submitted a report in August to the
HRC on its efforts to strengthen human rights commitments and comply
with international human rights standards. Today, a U.S. delegation
including representatives of the State, Justice, Homeland Security and
Education Departments gave follow-up testimony and fielded questions
from the HRC. Next week, the HRC will issue recommendations on how the
U.S. can improve its human rights record and bring its laws, policies
and practices in line with universal standards.

The U.S. report correctly acknowledged the need for improvement in
several key areas, including racial justice, women's rights, LGBT and
disability rights and discrimination against Muslims and Americans of
South Asian and Arab descent. However, the report neglected to address
other key areas where the U.S. has failed to meet its human rights
obligations, including felon disfranchisement, inhumane prison
conditions, flaws and racial disparities in the imposition of the death
penalty, human rights abuses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the
militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the broken and inhumane
immigration detention system. And while the report reiterated the Obama
administration's commitment to close Guantanamo, it defended the use of
the discredited military commissions to try terrorism suspects despite
their incompatibility with human rights law.

"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. "The
Obama administration should set a good example by working with Congress
and state and local governments to translate human rights commitments
into domestic laws and policies that will have a positive impact on all
people in America."

Representatives of the ACLU and other non-governmental organizations
were in Geneva this week to brief HRC members on human rights in the
United States, observe the review session today and participate in side
events. ACLU representatives include Murphy, Dakwar, Alessandra Soler
Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona, and Chandra
Bhatnagar, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program.

The ACLU submitted a report on the state of human rights in the U.S. to
the HRC in April 2010. The report, which focused on lack of access to
justice and effective remedies for human rights violations, is available
online at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666