Contact: In New York, Riptide Communications 212-260-5000; In Geneva Sarah Paoletti 44-7912-006514; Ajamu Baraka 404 695-0475
As US for First Time Submits to Review by UN Human Rights Council, Leading US Human Rights Groups Call on Obama Administration to Bring Domestic Practices in Line with International Standards
US Human Rights Network Details Shortcomings in Domestic Human Rights Protections
November 1, 2010, Geneva – As the Obama administration prepares for the first time to submit to a review of the United States’ human rights record before the United Nations Human Rights Council, US human rights groups have come together to spotlight the gross shortcomings in its human rights protections. The US Human Rights Network (USHRN), which consists of over 300 prominent human rights organizations and influential community groups across the country, has produced a 400-page report detailing the glaring inadequacies in the United States’ human rights record. Pointing to issues such as the discriminatory impact of foreclosures, racial disparities in access to basic health care services, and widespread racial profiling, the US Human Rights Network’s report demonstrates the need to raise domestic standards to meet those espoused in international treaties.
Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director of USHRN, which includes prominent US civil and human rights organizations such as the NAACP, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “We applaud the Obama Administration’s commitment to depart from US exceptionalism in its approach to international institutions. But the report the US has submitted on its human rights record fails to capture serious shortcomings in human rights protections in a number of areas,” he said, adding: “The consequences of a cataclysmic economic crisis have been felt disproportionately by underprivileged groups who have been offered few protections. Our immigration policies are draconian and contribute to racial profiling and violence in our immigrant communities. And in some areas of healthcare, we are performing at the level of underdeveloped nations.”
The US submitted its report to the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council on August 20, where it set out an overview of its human rights record and its promise to raise domestic standards to those espoused in international covenants and treaties. The report quotes Secretary of State Clinton: “[H]uman rights are universal, but their experience is local. This is why we are committed to holding everyone to the same standard, including ourselves.” However the USHRN points out that in contrast to this statement, the US remains exceptional in its refusal to ratify a number of key international treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and more generally has failed to create the necessary mechanisms for implementation of international human rights obligations across different federal agencies.
The USHRN report also calls for the creation of an interagency working group and reformed Civil Rights Commission with a human rights mandate, to oversee compliance with human rights standards.
Sarah Paoletti of the USHRN said “Human rights advocates across America have not only documented substandard human rights practices which have persisted in the US for years, but also those that reflect the precipitous erosion of human rights protections in the US since 9/11. Whether it is migrant laborers who are excluded from workplace protections, children denied education because of the school-to-prison pipeline, or women denied equal pay in the workplace, advocates feel compelled to bring their experiences before international human rights mechanisms because the US legal system has fallen short. ”
The UN General Assembly created the Human Rights Council in 2006 after its predecessor; the UN Human Rights Commission was discredited as a politicized forum which gave a platform to regimes with deplorable human rights records. The Universal Periodic review takes place every four years to evaluate UN member states’ compliance with human rights standards. The review will be held on Friday, November 5, at 9 am in Geneva. Among those representing the United States will be Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Harold Koh, State Department Legal Advisor.
The US Human Rights Network was formed to promote US accountability to universal human rights standards by building linkages between organizations and individuals. The Network strives to build a human rights culture in the United States that puts those directly affected by human rights violations, with a special emphasis on grassroots organizations and social movements, in a central leadership role. The Network also works towards connecting the US human rights movement with the broader US social justice movement and human rights movements around the world.
The USHRN submission to the UN Human Rights Council can be found here:
The executive summary of the USHRN submission follows:
To learn more, please visit: http://www.ushrnetwork.org