A United Nations body has delivered a scathing critique of the United States, highlighting rampant violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a major human rights treaty the U.S. ratified in 1992. The UN Human Rights Committee’s report, issued on November 3, documents extensive failures to address systemic racism and a range of human rights abuses.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, described the report as “scathing,” reflecting a stark contrast between the U.S.’s self-image as a beacon of democracy and the reality of its human rights record.
Key findings of the UN Committee’s report include:
- Widespread Racial Discrimination: The report identifies racial discrimination as a core issue, permeating two-thirds of the U.S. violations. It emphasizes the urgent need for the U.S. to challenge systemic racism affecting every aspect of society.
- Violence and Hate Speech: The Committee expressed concern about violence against minority groups, including Black, Indigenous, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, Jews, migrants, and LGBTQ+ individuals. It noted the disproportionate impact of gun-related deaths on these communities.
- Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Community: The report condemns restrictive state laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community, such as those criminalizing gender-affirming healthcare and limiting educational discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Criminalization of Homelessness: Highlighting the disproportionate impact on marginalized groups, the report recommends abolishing laws that criminalize homelessness.
- Police Brutality and Racial Profiling: The Committee pointed to significant concerns over law enforcement’s use of excessive force, particularly against minorities, urging reforms in line with international principles.
- Disparities in the Criminal Legal System: The report notes the overrepresentation of minorities in the justice system and recommends reducing unnecessary criminal justice interventions and revising parole and probation practices.
- Death Penalty and Life Imprisonment Concerns: The Committee urged a moratorium on the death penalty and the abolition of life imprisonment without parole for juveniles, noting racial disparities in these sentences.
- Impact of the “Muslim Ban”: The residual effects of former President Trump’s “Muslim Ban” and its implications for nationality-based discrimination are critiqued, with a call for a fair reconsideration process for affected visa applicants.
- Asylum Seeker Rights Violations: The report criticizes U.S. policies restricting asylum seekers’ rights and raises concerns about breaches of the non-refoulement principle.
- Family Separation at Borders: The Committee urges the U.S. to intensify efforts to reunite separated children with their families and prohibit future separations.
- Overrepresentation of Minority Children in Welfare: The report advocates for eliminating biases in student discipline and addressing the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
- Human Trafficking and Labor Exploitation: The Committee calls for on-site inspections and measures to prevent the criminalization of trafficking victims.
- Violence Against Women: The report highlights the need for effective implementation of the Violence Against Women Act and the passage of legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation.
- Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Rights: The U.S. is criticized for high maternal mortality rates, particularly affecting women of color, and the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions on abortion rights.
- Indigenous Rights and Environmental Concerns: The Committee emphasizes the need for the U.S. to respect Indigenous lands and addresses concerns about climate change and water crises.
- Voter Suppression Issues: The report points out the disproportionate impact of voting restrictions on marginalized communities.
- Freedom of Assembly Threats: The Committee criticizes the use of anti-terrorism laws against peaceful protesters and the targeting of journalists.
- Counterterrorism and Drone Strikes: Concerns are raised about the lack of accountability and transparency in U.S. counterterrorism operations, particularly drone strikes.
- Solitary Confinement and Guantánamo Bay Detentions: The report calls for the prohibition of solitary confinement for juveniles and people with disabilities and urges the closure of Guantánamo Bay.
- Call for Accountability and Remedies: The Committee condemns the impunity for human rights violations and recommends thorough investigations and effective remedies for victims.
Dakwar of the ACLU urges the U.S. government to take these recommendations seriously and protect the rights of all, particularly marginalized communities. The Committee’s findings indicate a comprehensive breach of the ICCPR across various aspects of life in the U.S., underscoring the need for immediate action to align with international human rights obligations.