Saturday, September 4, 2010

U.S. Human Rights Review Both Necessary and Worthwhile

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.Image via Wikipedia For Immediate Release
September 2, 2010
Contact: Sarah Paoletti, 202-821-9882; Ajamu Baraka, 404.695.0475

U.S. Human Rights Review Both Necessary and Worthwhile;
Civil Society Report Details Issues Still To Be Addressed

The report on human rights in the United States submitted by the State Department to the United Nations on August 20 has been met with criticism from conservative quarters. Most recently, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer demanded that an innocuous mention of Arizona’s controversial immigration law be removed from the report. The criticisms demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding about the purpose of the report, prepared as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process that examines the human rights records of all U.N. member states every four years. Moreover, a comprehensive report of domestic human rights issues coordinated and released by the US Human Rights Network clearly demonstrates that the problems addressed in the government report are not only real, but understated.

That report, now available in hard copy as well as online, consists of 26 separate submissions by civil society groups and human rights advocates covering a sweeping range of human rights topics. The report lays out the existing human rights frameworks in the U.S.; notes the lack of a coordinating authority or other adequate monitoring and enforcement mechanisms; highlights significant and specific shortcomings in domestic compliance with international human rights standards; and makes recommendations on how the U.S. can better meet those standards and live up to its treaty obligations. More than 200 non-governmental organizations and hundreds of advocates across the country have endorsed the report, which took almost a year to research and produce and was also submitted to the U.N. as part of the UPR process.

Since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, successive U.S. administrations and Congress have signed and ratified key international agreements that set forth a series of obligations and standards to which each participating nation must adhere. The UPR simply examines each nation’s compliance with those obligations. Rather than an abrogation of national sovereignty or kowtowing to repressive regimes, as some have characterized the process, the review provides positive opportunities for self-examination and to advance human rights on the ground for all U.S. residents. “Refusing to acknowledge that the U.S. can make any improvements in its human rights policies and practices misses a critical opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate the need for governments to hold themselves accountable to their constituents at home,” says University of Pennsylvania Law School Practice Associate Professor Sarah Paoletti, Senior Coordinator for the Network’s UPR Project. “Enhancing human rights at home will only strengthen the nation’s standing and influence abroad, and we should embrace the challenge.”

To read the US Human Rights Network report, please visit For more information on the UPR process, please visit

Government-Civil Society UPR Consultations occurred across the country. Click here for more information.
Share your human rights story through the Testify! Project and be heard at the United Nations.
View UPR Reports from USHR Network Members and Allies Inludes a downloadable PDF of 26 joint Civil Society Reports and links to the UPR report issued by the US Government.

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