Friday, July 07, 2006

Home of the Naive

'Shadow' human rights report to accuse United States of violating international human rights treaties

A scathing report submitted to the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee and copied to RAW STORY by a coalition of 142 U.S. non-governmental organizations alleges serious human rights violations by the United States.

The report, which will be delivered to the UN Human Rights Committee July 10, alleges that the US violated the right to life and non-discrimination statutes of international human rights treaties to which the US is a signatory – citing evacuations based on income and property levels in New Orleans after Katrina, alleged abuse at California prisons and the incarceration of children in adult jails.

It also chides the US for capital punishment, which it says “allows for individuals to be sentenced to death, even if they did not kill, intend to kill, or even contemplate that another human being would die as a result of their actions.”

The “shadow report,” as non-governmental rebuttals to state presentations are called, was leaked to RAW STORY early Wednesday. Its authors believed the 456-page document is a blistering indictment of U.S. violations of the 1992 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The UN Human Rights Committee meets twice a year and reviews state sponsored reports every four years. The government report is then examined against a “shadow report,” a non-governmental report done usually by not-for profit groups of the parent country. Since 1994, the U.S. has failed to honor its treaty obligations and has failed to produce any type of report for the routine review, breaking its international obligation for the last seven years.
According the US Human Rights Campaign, New Orleans residents were seemingly stripped of their citizenship status and described as refugees, denying them the rights of displaced persons status.
The report also tackles US prisons. It cites California as an example of gross mistreatment of prisoners, alleging abuse, neglect, discrimination and denial of due process for violations of international treaties and U.S. legislation such as the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
The report recounts cases of rape of prisoners by prison guards, abusing female prisoners who are pregnant and minority prisoners specifically, and cites examples of horrific cases that have gone unaddressed.

"We are hoping to build on the U.N. Committee Against Torture's strong findings criticizing the widespread use of excessive and often deadly force by police and corrections officers, including the abuse of TASERs, the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in prisons and by law enforcement officers, the appalling conditions of confinement in U.S. prisons, and the impunity enjoyed by those who violate basic civil and human rights of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system,” New York City civil attorney Andrea Ritchie, who also authored the shadow report police brutality section, says.

“The U.S. government may not be willing to answer to us at home, but it has to answer to the U.N,” she added.
But while the U.N. Human Rights Committee has the ability to apply international political pressure, there is nothing else that the body can do, short of intervention. Ultimately, each country must hold its own leadership accountable is the sentiment shared across the board by many of the coalition members and legal scholars providing guidance.

“The U.S. has an international legal obligation to respect human rights, both domestically and abroad, and to comply” with the treaty, Soohoo said.

“Enforcement depends on political pressure from the international community, but perhaps more importantly from the American people demanding that the U.S. live up to its human rights obligations,” Soohoo added. “That's why it is so significant that a historic number of domestic organizations are participating in the U.N. review. They will ensure that the Committee's conclusions and recommendations don't sit on a shelf.”

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