Human Rights Watch Calls United States “Strong on Process and Short on Substance”

Friday, May 08, 2015
Ferguson protests—Associated Press

As the United States prepares to undergo a human rights review by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging that the U.S. take more concrete action toward improving its human rights record.

The U.S. underwent its first Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in 2010. After the review, the government accepted 171 recommendations, including:

·         Improving the living conditions of those held in its prison system.

·         Working to eliminate brutality and use of excessive force by police against minorities and undocumented immigrants.

·         Ratifying key international agreements, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Five years later, the U.S. has followed through on none of those recommendations, nor many others, according to HRW. “At the UN rights review, the U.S. has been strong on process and short on substance,” according to Antonio Ginatta, HRW’s U.S. advocacy director. “The U.S. has little progress to show for the many commitments it made during its first Universal Periodic Review.”

Other concerns flagged by HRW include the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs, its use of indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo Bay, and the Obama administration’s failure to hold accountable intelligence agents and contractors who tortured detainees last decade.

HRW highlighted last summer’s shooting by Ferguson, Missouri, police of Michael Brown and law enforcement’s reaction to the protests that followed. “[T]he excessive response by law enforcement to the subsequent protests are a reminder that the United States still struggles with issues of race and policing. The shooting is the most recent example of possible unlawful use of lethal force by local law enforcement. In addition, police responded to largely peaceful protests about the killing with intimidating tactics and excessive use of force,” according to HRW’s submission to the UN Human Rights Council.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

U.S.: UN Rights Review to Expose Failings (Human Rights Watch)

United States: UPR Submission September 2014 (Human Rights Watch)

U.S. Only Country of 47 to Vote against Investigating Possible Human Rights Violations during Israeli Occupation of Gaza (by Noel

     Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Democratic and Republican Presidents Agree…U.N. Human Rights Treaty Doesn’t Apply to Americans (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

U.S. Human Rights Violations Outlined by U.N. Rights Commissioner (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



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