U.S. UPR Response Garners Praise, Further Reforms Recommended

Washington, DC – Human Rights First today stated that it is gratified that the United States is approaching its participation in the Universal Periodic Review with a seriousness that reflects the importance of human rights in U.S. domestic and foreign policy. The praise comes as the United States made public its responses to the recommendations made to it by the member States of the UN Human Rights Council. The Council’s recommendations are an aspect of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, in which countries’ practices and policies relating to human rights are evaluated. The recommendations follow the report of the United States to the Council last year and precede the U.S. appearance before the Council next week. “The United States’ approach to the UPR will help strengthen compliance with human rights norms here at home and will encourage a high standard for reporting by other countries,” said Human Rights First’s Gabor Rona. “It will also strengthen the integrity of the Council’s credibility as a human rights monitoring body.” On matters of national security, Human Rights First stated that it is gratified to see that the United States has:

  • Reiterated its commitment to closing Guantanamo and to preventing all acts of torture by US officials;
  • Asserted its support for the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers; and
  • Committed to investigate all acts of torture regardless of where they are perpetrated.

However, the organization notes that it is cause for concern that the United States has:

  • Rejected recommendations that the U.S. government ensure that victims of torture have access to compensation as is required by Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture;
  • Failed to articulate what actions the administration plans to take to lay the political and legal groundwork for ensuring that Guantanamo is closed; and
  • Rejected recommendations to cease trials in the failed and flawed military commissions that do not meet the minimum due process standards required by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

“The U.S. government response notes some meaningful improvements, but it also fails recognize several legitimate concerns raised during the Review, including the U.S.’s failure to meet its legal obligations to provide victims of torture with access to remedies,” Rona observed. On the detention of asylum seekers and other immigrants, Human Rights First welcomes the government’s commitment in its response to States’ recommendations to comply with its obligations under international human rights law relating to the treatment of detained immigrants, including the conditions in which they are held. Given this commitment, it is particular cause for concern that the United States has failed to commit to revising its regulations to provide arriving asylum seekers and other detained immigrants with immigration court review of their custody. Human Rights First is urging the U.S. government to:

  • Revise regulatory language to provide arriving asylum seekers and other immigrants who are held in immigration detention with the chance to have their custody reviewed in a hearing before an immigration court. Current US detention procedures do not comply with  Article 9(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and
  • Expand Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) use of alternatives to detention and reduce reliance on prisons and prison-like facilities. ICE should instead use facilities with non-penal detention conditions when detention is necessary in accordance with international human rights standards.

Published on March 11, 2011


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