ACLU Suggested List of Issues to U.N. Country Report Task Force on U.S. Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Document Date: December 10, 2012

Today we celebrate the 64th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This monumental document inspired millions of people across the globe who fought and continue to fight for the simple but powerful idea that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

While not a legally binding document, the UDHR has become a powerful instrument of moral force used universally to assert and protect a broad spectrum of fundamental rights and freedoms including economic, civil, social, political, and cultural rights of all people without any distinction or discrimination. The UDHR was also the inspirational foundation for the adoption of ten subsequent international human right instruments that cover specific areas including civil and political rights (ICCPR); economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR); racial discrimination (CERD); discrimination against women (CEDAW); torture (CAT); children’s rights (CRC); migrant workers (ICRMW); protection against enforced disappearance (CPED); and disability rights (CRPD).

The U.S. undoubtedly continues to provide global leadership on some human rights issues. For example, the current administration has been actively engaging international bodies and was recently re-elected to the Human Rights Council, providing vigorous leadership in the fight for LGBT and gender equality as well as championing internet and religious freedom, free speech and assembly rights.

But while some U.S. laws and policies have been comparatively advanced in protecting civil rights and civil liberties, the U.S. has fallen behind in protecting other universal human rights recognized by the UDHR, especially in the areas of racial discrimination as well ascriminal and economic justice. The U.S. government has only partially and selectively embraced sixty-four-year-old promise and its own current practice. Notably, the United States has fallen short of fully implementing its legal obligations under treaties ratified in the early 1990s - namely, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the and the and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

This report is submitted to the Human Rights Committee as part of a larger civil society effort to inform the international human rights community about the situation of human rights in the United States. While the ACLU will provide additional information, both formally and informally, to the Human Rights Committee in the next weeks and months in preparation for theU.S. review before the Committee in October 2013, this report focuses on 6 critical priority issues for the ACLU that highlight the accountability gap between U.S. human rights obligations and current law, policy and practice. As our submission discusses, some of these abuses are committed by state and local government actors, but are encouraged and exacerbated by federal policies (such as the "Section 287(g) Agreements” and “Secure Communities” programs operated by the Department of Homeland Security). Under international human rights law, the federal system does not diminish or absolve state and local authorities of their obligations to uphold human rights. The ACLU submission identifies specific questions and recommendations for the Human Rights Committee to consider in the areas of anti-immigrant measures, killings on the U.S.-Mexico border, accountability for torture and abuse during the Bush Administration, domestic violence, solitary confinement, and the death penalty.

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