USA Submits Human Rights Record

“Submitted to the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last week but made public yesterday, in accordance with the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Process,” State Department spokesman P J Crowley said, adding the report’s submission is one step in the UPR process.

“The next step will be a formal presentation by the US Government before the Human Rights Council in Geneva in November. The report stands as just one element of a broad US effort to engage constructively with the UN and other international organisations,” he said.

In its 29-page report, the US noted the country has always been a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.

“Although we have made great strides, work remains to meet our goal of ensuring equality before the law for all,” it said.

“Thirty years ago, the idea of having an African-American president would not have seemed possible; today it is our reality. Our Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, is also African-American. Three of the last four Secretaries of State have been women, and two of the last three have been African-American,” it said.

“We have recently appointed our first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, as well as several LGBT individuals to senior positions in the Executive Branch. And while individual stories do not prove the absence of enduring challenges, they demonstrate the presence of possibilities,” the report said.

“We are not satisfied with a situation where the unemployment rate for African Americans is 15.8 per cent, for Hispanics 12.4 per cent, and for whites 8.8 per cent, as it was in February 2010.

We are not satisfied that a person with disabilities is only one fourth as likely to be employed as a person without disabilities,” it said.

“We are not satisfied when fewer than half of African-American and Hispanic families own homes while three quarters of white families do. We are not satisfied that whites are twice as likely as Native Americans to have a college degree. The United States continues to address such disparities by working to ensure that equal opportunity is not only guaranteed in law but experienced in fact by all Americans,” the report said.

The Obama Administration also said it has worked to ensure fair treatment of members of Muslim, Arab-American, and South Asian communities.

“The US Government is committed to protecting the rights of members of these groups, and to combating discrimination and intolerance against them,” it said.

Meanwhile, several human rights groups welcomed the US report.
“The very fact that the United States is participating in the review process is significant,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke.

“We urge the administration to see this report not just as an opportunity to defend the positive aspects of its human rights record, but as one step in an ongoing process to address shortcomings and commit to concrete improvements,” he said.

“While this report demonstrates the Obama administration’s willingness to recommit to engagement on international human rights, the administration must now prove that it is prepared to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Programme.

“It is time for the US to match its human rights rhetoric with concrete domestic policies and actions and create a human rights culture and infrastructure that promote American values of equality and justice for all,” he said.

According to the ACLU, the US report correctly acknowledges the need for improvement in several key areas, including racial justice, women’s rights, LGBT rights and discrimination against Muslims and Americans of South Asian and Arab descent.

However, the report neglects to address other key areas where the US has failed to meet its human rights obligations, including felon disfranchisement, inhumane prison conditions, racial disparities in the death penalty system and deaths and abuse in immigration detention.

The report also defends the use of military commissions to try terrorism suspects, despite the fact that military commissions pose significant human and civil rights violations, ACLU said.

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