New York, NY – July 30, 2015 - Today, the United Nations Human Rights Committee – a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by countries that have ratified the treaty - released its official report on the progress the United States has made in advancing human rights in the last year. The progress report focused on four issues identified following the review of the United States on its compliance with the treaty in March 2014, documented in their concluding observations: 1) accountability for past human rights violations; 2) gun violence; 3) detainees at Guantanamo Bay; and 4) National Security Agency Surveillance.
The progress report reflects the Committee's assessment of responses provided by the U.S. Government as well as civil society, and includes a grading scale from A – “largely satisfactory” to C2 – “response received, but not relevant to the recommendations”.
Key areas of concern raised by the UN Committee included accountability for past human rights violations, such as illegal execution, torture, and enforced disappearances, for which the United States received C1 (unsatisfactory) grades.
On the issue of gun violence, the Committee reiterated its concern that the immunity provided by “Stand Your Ground” laws had expanded, and gave the U.S. Government a C1 grade on this issue as recommended by civil society groups in their follow up report. Ron Davis, father of Jordan Davis, said of the grade: “Stand Your Ground Law in its present form is a domestic virus. Unlike Ebola, it is a man made virus that has been intentionally released upon the populace causing unreasonable people to commit murder while doubling down that they will not face even a trial. The decision by judges to approve a Stand Your Ground defense has also proven to be discriminatory against people of color. The C grade by The Human Rights Committee must be a call to action by the U.S. Government.”
Ciara Taylor, Director of Political Consciousness, Dream Defenders remarked: “It is shocking that after being given an entire year to address Stand Your Ground’s ‘incompatibility with the right to life,’ the United States has failed to act with a sense of urgency. We see utter disregard for the lives of people of color in policies like Stand Your Ground, and in the daily actions of local law enforcement officials, who are positioned within the system to uphold these policies and the State's many systems of oppression.”The groups Community Justice Project and Dream Defenders were part of the robust U.S. civil society delegation to Geneva advocating for the recommendation to prohibit ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in March 2014.
On the issue of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and specifically regarding administrative detention and military commissions, actions have been taken contrary to the Committees recommendation.
James G. Connell, III, Office of the Chief Defense Counsel, Attorney for Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Ammar al Baluchi and other attorneys for Guantanamo Bay Prisoners had suggested a C grade to the Committee in their stakeholder report, the grade issued by the Committee. Connell states: "The Committee is right: the US is pressing forward with military commissions which violate international human rights standards. Torture corrupts everything it touches, and these military commissions are no exception."
“We welcome the UN Human Rights Committee's evaluation of the United States, and urge the Administration to follow up on the low grades which make clear that the US has significant work to do to fully comply with its human rights obligations.” Ejim Dike, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN).
For more information about the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) visit here.
The US Human Rights Network is a national network of organizations and individuals working to strengthen a human rights movement and culture within the United States led by the people most directly impacted by human rights violations. We work to secure dignity and justice for all. www.ushrnetwork.org