This past Monday, the Human Rights Committee commenced its one hundredth and tenth session in Geneva from March 10-28. During this session, the Committee will review the reports of several countries on how they are implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international human rights treaty and one of the bedrocks of human rights protections.This has been curiously absent from most American media:
Countries that have ratified the ICCPR are required to protect and preserve basic human rights through various means including administrative, judicial, and legislative measures. Additionally, these countries are required to submit a report to the Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts who monitor the implementation of States’ human rights obligations, every four years. The United States ratified the ICCPR in 1992 and is thus tied to these obligations, and required to regard the treaty the same as it would any domestic law. The Human Rights Committee will review the US’s human rights records on Thursday, March 13. In particular, the Committee will be scrutinizing the US’s mass surveillance practices and its compliance with Article 17 on the right to privacy.
The US came under sharp criticism at the UN human rights committee in Geneva on Thursday for a long list of human rights abuses that included everything from detention without charge at Guantánamo, drone strikes and NSA surveillance, to the death penalty, rampant gun violence and endemic racial inequality.More beneath the fold.
Issues such as racial inequality, gun violence, and the death penalty have been problems for the United States for decades—or centuries.
Other issues were relative newcomers. The experts raised questions about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of digital communications in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. It also intervened in this week’s dispute between the CIA and US senators by calling for declassification and release of the 6,300-page report into the Bush administration’s use of torture techniques and rendition that lay behind the current CIA-Senate dispute.The committee particularly highlighted the drone wars, and the failure of the Obama administration to prosecute those responsible for the Bush era torture regime. The U.S. also was criticized for trying to evade its responsibilities under the ICCPR by claiming it doesn't apply beyond U.S. borders, thus excusing actions taken at Guantánamo and elsewhere, presumably including "black sites." This excuse has been used since the Clinton administration, although it has become more common since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the US ratified in 1992. The current exercise, repeated every five years, is a purely voluntarily review, and the US will face no penalties should it choose to ignore the committee’s recommendations, which will appear in a final report in a few weeks’ time.
Other issues of the committee's focus include stand-your-ground gun laws; racial injustice in the justice system; abuse of mentally ill and juvenile prisoners; school segregation; homelessness, including the criminalization of homelessness; and racial profiling by law enforcement, including specifically that of Muslims by New York police.
Some of these issues are now so endemic to American culture that addressing them will require a profound cultural evolution. Some are the responsibility of elected officials, who could address them now, if they so chose. All of these issues reflect poorly on the entire nation.