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That OAK members and constituents were not particularly championed by the OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) in response to their 2010 submission seemed much like a self-fulfilling prophesy until late January 2013.  On January 28, 2013, “UPR Info” invited OAK “to share information and comments on recommendations adopted at the Human Rights Council.”  UPR Info is a Geneva-based NGO (non-governmental organization) in Special Consultative Status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

UPR Info’s final response:  OAK’s 2013 submission “is too general, it will not help to assess the implementation.”  OAK . . . inquired if UPR Info would “. . . kindly explain how or why OAK's proposed follow-up submission ‘is too general’ or otherwise ‘will not help . . . ’?”  As of early May 2013, proverbial radio silence.  

To no avail, OAK stressed its intention “to report the actions (or lack thereof) by the U.S.A. to redress the primary concerns of (its) coalition members as reflected by the country's acceptance of certain UPR session 22 recommendations.”  UPR Info was implored:  “Hopefully the milestones that OAK highlights, represented by the language, parameters, and mere acceptance of these recommendations, are relevant and important for your assessment though it also measures patent steps taken or not taken to implement those recommendations.”  It was re-emphasized that “OAK gauges the latter developments only after they clearly advance, deter, or are inconsequential for ‘an environment promoting access to justice: the capacity of (usually) disadvantaged groups of citizens to gain access to courts (or alternative resolution mechanisms) by removing various institutional as well as corruption related barriers within the legal system’.  (emphasis added).”

In 2010, the U.S.A. underwent its first “Universal Periodic Review”.  The process is a graduated review of “the fulfillment by all 192 U.N. member States (or countries) on their human rights obligations and commitments, as well as their progress, challenges, and needs for improvement.”  Each U.N. member is reviewed every four years.

As part of the UPR, a “country under review presents its report, answers questions, and receives recommendations from other countries.”  There has got to be a rash of carpal tunnel syndrome every four years due to all the finger-pointing this peer review undoubtedly occasions.  In fact, some contend the U.S. should not reduce itself to such an exercise to the extent blatantly repressive regimes participate.  But former U.S. Secretary Clinton defied the naysayers, confirming that “democracies demonstrate their greatness not by insisting they are perfect, but by using their institutions and their principles to make themselves . . . more perfect.”

OAK, a U.S.-based coalition of grassroots reform advocates, suggested before the U.N. that America improve ‘. . . by removing various institutional as well as corruption related barriers within (its) legal system.’  The group name is short for “Organizations Associating for the Kind of Change America Really Needs”.  OAK submitted its referenced “Joint Stakeholders” report on America’s human rights record as part of the 2010 UPR.

A central assertion of OAK’s 2010 UPR submission is that “. . . no amount of legal training, talent, skill, or experience guarantees any American appropriate relief” when contending with “. . .  rogue agents of America’s local, state, and/or federal government” aligned to subvert the law.  Despite its 10 page limit, the report highlights circumstances at least arguably suggesting “. . . that the ability of average Americans to effectively petition their government is so diluted or compromised that what would otherwise be our constitutional and universal human rights are no more than privileges, doled out at government discretion.”

Supposedly “(stakeholder) reports that summarize the problem and then focus on making concrete recommendations for improvement (are) stronger and more effective” and make it “easier for other countries to suggest specific issues and recommendations for adoption.”  The last page of OAK’s submission accordingly lists and references several proposals, collectively developed over decades of research, study, and advocacy.  Yet OAK was not highlighted in the "OHCHR summary of NGO reports".

That OAK members and constituents were not particularly championed by the OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) in response to their 2010 UPR submission seemed much like a self-fulfilling prophesy until late January 2013.  On January 28, 2013, “UPR Info” invited OAK “to share information and comments on recommendations adopted at the Human Rights Council.”  UPR Info is a Geneva-based NGO (non-governmental organization) in Special Consultative Status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

UPR Info reportedly aims to “ensure the respect of engagements taken at the UPR, but also more specifically . . .  to give NGOs – (such as OAK) – the opportunity to give (their) opinion on the implementation of recommendations.”  As of January 2013, UPR Info claimed to “provide an equal space for every NGO which participated in the UPR” and “strongly encourage (them), according to (their) means and . . . areas of interest, to send (it) observations regarding the implementation (or lack thereof) by the US of the recommendations received.”

OAK made its requested submission as part of the “UPR Follow-up Programme” on April 26, 2013.  UPR Info promptly responded that the submission “. . . is quoting (OAK’s) 2010 report” and explained “(w)e would like rather to look into the implementation; a 2010 comment does not help in assessing the situation since the UPR.”

Upon further inquiry, UPR Info acknowledged that OAK may “definitely base (its) responses on . . . previous work”, but noted “participants should comment the actions (or lack thereof) undertaken” and concluded OAK’s “input was rather a comment on the quality of recommendations, instead of how the US comply with those recommendations.”

To no avail, OAK stressed its intention “to report the actions (or lack thereof) by the U.S.A. to redress the primary concerns of (its) coalition members as reflected by the country's acceptance of certain UPR session 22 recommendations.”  UPR Info was implored:  “Hopefully the milestones that OAK highlights, represented by the language, parameters, and mere acceptance of these recommendations, are relevant and important for your assessment though it also measures patent steps taken or not taken to implement those recommendations.”  It was re-emphasized that “OAK gauges the latter developments only after they clearly advance, deter, or are inconsequential for ‘an environment promoting access to justice: the capacity of (usually) disadvantaged groups of citizens to gain access to courts (or alternative resolution mechanisms) by removing various institutional as well as corruption related barriers within the legal system’.  (emphasis added).”  

The referenced “environment promoting access to justice” is a standard set by Transparency International, a prestigious anti-corruption coalition.  UPR Info was advised that “(g)iven (such) concerns, ‘OAK focuses on potential or theoretical . . . progress’ as expecting to find ‘. . . substantial or even significant (relevant) evidence . . . since November 2010 would be naïve at best’."  OAK conceded that “(w)hile the ‘diplomats who made . . . recommendations need (concrete) information to see whether the USA took mesures (sic) to implement them’, they are sure to appreciate learning, even if they did not previously contemplate related implications for the ‘environment promoting access to justice’ or lack thereof in America as highlighted by OAK.”

UPR Info’s final response:  OAK’s 2013 submission “is too general, it will not help to assess the implementation.”  OAK went one step further and acknowledged UPR Info’s apparent contention that it “. . . is not providing the ‘kind of information’ desired and/or needed to assess implementation by the USA of UPR session 22 recommendations”.  But OAK also inquired if UPR Info would “. . . kindly explain how or why OAK's proposed follow-up submission ‘is too general’ or otherwise ‘will not help to assess the implementation’?”  As of early May 2013, proverbial radio silence.  

###

Zena Crenshaw-Logal,
Executive Director
"The Law Project"
www.njcdlp.org

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