IMPLEMENTING THE ICCPR: Working for Civil and Political Rights
The U.S. Government was reviewed on March 13-14, 2014 in Geneva, on its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, or the Covenant). Social justice groups and activists had an opportunity to be a part of this review process. The USHRN delegation was in Geneva and conducted many activities over the course of the week to make sure UN and USG officials learned the human rights realities of communities across the country.
The USHRN is working to promote full implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, or the Covenant) by educating the public about U.S. Government obligations under the treaty and by engaging our membership in the effective use of the treaty to promote human rights at home.
On March 26, 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the ICCPR, recommended that the U.S. make changes in four critical areas within one year:
1. Accountability for past human rights violations;
2. Gun violence;
3. Detainees at Guantanamo Bay; and
4. National Security Agency Surveillance
The Government has to report on its progress by March 26, 2015. This means you too have the opportunity to use the same grading system provided by the UN to report on the Government. We also want to use this opportunity to do advocate on the other twenty-plus recommendations that the Committee made to the Government.
Civil Society follow-up shadow reports are due to the UN by April 26, 2015 (All reports should be in MS Word format and e-mailed to: ccpr [@] ohchr.org (with copy to: fsantana [@] ohchr.org and kfox [@] ohchr.org) and iccpr [@] ushrnetwork.org.)).
CLICK HERE to see the concluding observations on the forth periodic report of the United States of America (April 23, 2014).
CLICK HERE to see the USHRN ICCPR Taskforce follow-up letter to the U.S. Department of State with suggestions for improved consultations with civil society and a request for a meeting to discuss implementation of the concluding observations.
Click here to read the fifth edition of the ICCPR newsletter! In this edition, we feature updates on 14 shadow reports that the Network submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of our members and partners.
Click here to learn important dates related to the ICCPR review (as well as other planned 2014 international mechanism reviews).
Click here to read MSNBC.com article highlighting USHRN work to ensure full UN review of U.S. Government record to protect civil and political rights.
Click here to learn how to get involved in the ICCPR review.
Click here to see the UN Procedure for Concluding Observations Follow-up.
What is the ICCPR?
The ICCPR is a human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and put into force on March 23, 1976. This important treaty outlines some broad and fundamental civil and political rights that we should all enjoy, including the rights to self-determination, to life, to found a family, to participate in the electoral process, and to due process and a fair trial. It also provides freedoms from torture, slavery, genocide, and freedoms of movement, speech, expression, conscience, and religion. In addition to many more rights and freedoms, it provides for equal protection and enjoyment of these rights by women, men, children, and minorities. The United States signed the Covenant on October 5, 1977, and ratified it on June 8, 1992. Based on the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the ICCPR has the status of federal law, and the United States is, therefore, obligated to adhere to this treaty.
The ICCPR, and its two Optional Protocols, is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Note that the United States has not ratified these two Optional Protocols; the first Protocol establishes an individual complaints mechanism, and the second abolishes the death penalty.
How does the ICCPR Review Process Work?
The ICCPR is monitored by a United Nations' committee known as the Human Rights Committee, or the Committee for short. (Note that the Human Rights Committee is different from the Human Rights Council.) The Committee is composed of 18 independent members experienced in the areas of human rights covered under the ICCPR (check out the ACLU's Human Rights Committee Member Booklet). Although nominated by their country, Committee members serve in their individual capacities, not as representatives of their countries. The Committee meets three (3) times per year to review periodic reports from countries that have ratified the ICCPR. In these meetings, governments must provide an accounting of how they are implementing human rights standards under the treaty. Governments must report initially one year after acceding to the Covenant and then whenever the Committee requests, which is usually every four (4) years. The Committee meets in Geneva and New York.
The review is a multi-stage process that begins with the country submitting its periodic report. Based on that report and input from social justice groups and other NGOs, the Committee comes up with a series of questions that the country must respond to in writing. These questions are known as the List of Issues, and it establishes the agenda for the upcoming country dialog. If social justice groups wish to influence the agenda, they must provide short written reports called "List of Issues Submissions" to the Committee before it comes up with the List.
In the next stage of the process, the country provides written replies to the List, which is then used as the basis to begin the dialog during the in-person review. For the dialog, the Committee solicits and incorporates "shadow reports" from groups working on the ground with people and communities directly impacted by human rights violations. After the dialog, the Committee issues its recommendations to the country; these are called Concluding Observations. Social justice groups' participation is essential here as well, as they begin or continue lobbying and advocacy efforts to get these and past recommendations implemented at home.
For a more detailed account of the review process, see our ICCPR Fact Sheet as well as the Centre for Civil and Political Rights' "Guidelines for NGOs." Both documents are also available in our Resources and Media section.
CLICK HERE to go to our #HouRs365 Campaign website where you can see updates sent from Geneva.
#HouRs365 is a national human rights campaign,which uses social media on national and international days of action to shed light on human rights violations around the United States. All year, we are dominating social media, tweeting and posting, on the human rights issues around us and the power of the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Together we are weaving our work toward justice, dignity and rights for all in the United States.
The 2014 ICCPR Day of Action took place on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014! Stay tuned and join the ICCPR listserv for ways to get involved in future ICCPR reviews of the US.
In preparation for the review of the U.S. on its compliance with the ICCPR, the USHRN ICCPR Taskforce coordinated the submission of shadow reports to the UN Human Rights Committee. All social justice groups, especially those who submitted issues for the review in October 2013 (then rescheduled for March 13-14, 2014), were invited to participate. In this effort, we leveraged the review process to gain concrete human rights wins in our communities. The ICCPR Taskforce has developed a work plan to engage groups in the process. We encouraged groups to work together to submit joint shadow reports.
On December 30, 2011, the U.S. submitted its fourth periodic report. The US Human Rights Network has created a task force to assist groups in the different stages of the review process. The USHRN ICCPR Taskforce is an all-volunteer team of people well-versed in the issue areas covered by the ICCPR treaty and the ICCPR review process. They are eager to assist groups, and have been working hard to provide all the resources needed to participate in the review process. These materials and more are also available in our Resources and Media section.
In December of 2012, social justice groups wrote and submitted short reports to the Human Rights Committee to influence the questions it will ask the U.S. Government to respond to in writing and in-person. The Human Rights Committee met in Geneva in March 2013 and has released its official List of Issues. In June 2013, the U.S. Government issued its response to the Committee's list of questions, and social justice groups in turn responded with alternative reports (aslo called shadow reports) in September 2013. Originally planned for October 2013, the in-person review of the U.S. Government's human rights record was postponed because of the Government Shutdown.
From March 13-14, 2014, the U.S. Government responded to questions before the Committee. The Taskforce worked with social justice groups and activists to influence and attend this review. On March 27, 2014 the Committee issued its concluding observations.
The ICCPR Taskforce meets on a monthly basis. For more information on the work of the ICCPR Taskforce, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.