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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE American Civil Liberties Union and HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH AFRICA WATCH <> AMERICAS WATCH ASIA WATCH <> HELSINKI WATCH MIDDLE EAST WATCH ACLU AND HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT ON U.S. VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COVENANT Groups Call on Clinton Administration to Correct Abuses, Ensure That International Standards Can Be Invoked in U.S. Courts December 14, 1993 The United States falls short of compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch. "The United States government regularly condemns human rights abuses in other countries, but has done little to apply international human rights law in the United States," stated Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "We issue this report in the hope of breaking the cynical view of international human rights law as a source of protection only for those outside U.S. borders. This report demonstrates that violations are happening on U.S. soil, as well." The 128-page report, a joint undertaking of the major U.S. constitutional rights organization and largest U.S.-based international human rights group, was prompted by the ratification of the ICCPR by the U.S. in 1992, more than 25 years after its adoption by the United Nations. The ICCPR requires each signatory to ensure the rights codified for "all individuals within its territory." As part of its obligation under the ICCPR, the U.S. will for the first time submit a report about its own human rights record to a United Nations committee that will evaluate U.S. compliance with international standards. The U.S. report was due in September, and is expected to be released in the next few weeks. It is being prepared by the Department of State. In a letter accompanying the submission of the report to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch urged him to use the "opportunity for a full and frank assessment of U.S. human rights problems." In their report, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch examine U.S. practices in the areas of race and sex discrimination, prisoners' rights, police brutality, the death penalty, immigration rights, language rights, religious liberty, and freedom of expression. The report finds significant shortcomings in the U.S. record, from the summary repatriation of Haitian boat people to the brutal treatment of prisoners. In these and other cases, the ICCPR may offer greater protection against human rights abuses than the current interpretation of U.S. law. The ACLU and Human Rights Watch call on the Clinton Administration to take steps to correct these abuses and to make it possible to invoke the protections of the Covenant in U.S. courts. The Bush administration, through a series of reservations, declarations and understandings, nullified every provision of the treaty that it believed would have granted expanded rights to Americans. Asserting that the U.S. was in compliance with the remainder of the Covenant's guarantees, the Administration then denied Americans the opportunity to rely on the Covenant in U.S. courts. According to Paul Hoffman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California and one of the report's authors: "This report shows that the Bush administration was wrong -- the United States is not complying with the treaty's obligations. The Clinton Administration must take immediate steps to remedy these human rights violations, and to allow Americans to use the treaty to protect their rights. We also urge the repeal of a number of the restrictions imposed on covenant rights." The report is not intended as a comprehensive examination of the human rights situation in the United States or of U.S. compliance with the ICCPR. Human Rights Watch and the ACLU have identified nine substantive areas in which the United States human rights record falls short of international standards. Among the major findings of the report are these: o Prison Conditions. The United States routinely violates Article 10 of the ICCPR, which requires that all prisoners and detainees "be treated with humanity and with respect to the inherent dignity of the human person." The U.S. violates this provision by placing prisoners into extremely overcrowded facilities that strip them of their dignity and privacy and endanger their health and safety. Article 10 is also violated by many of the techniques and punishments of "super maximum security" facilities, where, for example, prisoners may pass years without breathing the outside air or may be forced to eat their meals with their hands tied behind their backs. The anti-discrimination requirement of Article 26 is violated by the unequal treatment of women prisoners, who receive fewer recreational, vocational, and educational opportunities than their male counterparts. o Immigrants and Refugees. The interdiction and summary repatriation of Haitian boat people is a flagrant violation of Article 12, which states that "[e]veryone shall be free to leave any country, including his own." It also violates Article 26, which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin (intercepted Cubans, for example, are not summarily repatriated). Human rights abuses by Border Patrol agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service violate Article 7 (the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 9(1) (the right to liberty and security of the person). o Race Discrimination. Although U.S. legal protection against race discrimination is generally adequate by ICCPR standards, in practice legal safeguards go largely unmet. Educational segregation and unequal conditions of schooling persist at all levels; public and private housing are rife with segregation and discrimination; and in employment, African Americans are three times less likely to be hired than whites with similar qualifications. By failing adequately to redress ongoing racial and ethnic discrimination, the United States stands in violation of Article 2, which requires an effective remedy for violation of Covenant rights, and Article 26, which requires "equal and effective protection [i.e., enforcement of the remedy] against discrimination on any ground." o Language Rights. Minority language speakers in the U.S. face discrimination in health and social services, employment and education, as well as overt hostility as manifested by the "English-only" movement that emerged in the 1980s. Article 26 forbids discrimination based on language. In the U.S., by contrast, constitutional claims alleging such discrimination have received a relatively low level of judicial scrutiny. This low level of scrutiny is protected by the Bush Administration's "understanding" entered regarding Article 26, which purports to allow discrimination when it is "rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective." Erasure of this understanding and implementation of the ICCPR would provide much-needed protection to language minorities. o Sex Discrimination. Women in the U.S. face systemic and entrenched discrimination in the workplace in terms of occupational access, conditions of employment, and compensation. They are discriminated against through omission in government-funded medical research. In public schools and universities, girls and women continue to receive less attention and resources than do boys and men, despite Title IX's mandate for equal education. Article 26 not only forbids discrimination; it also requires States parties to provide "equal and effective protection" against discrimination. Even taking into account the limiting understanding imposed by the U.S. on Article 26, its failure adequately to protect against sex discrimination violates that provision. o Religious Liberty. A 1990 Supreme Court decision, Employment Division v. Smith, began a serious incursion by U.S. courts into First Amendment protection for the free exercise of religion. Fortunately, this incursion was halted by the recent passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The experience of the three intervening years, when protection for religious freedom dwindled in the U.S., underscore the potential importance of the ICCPR as an additional line of defense to this and other fundamental rights. o Freedom of Expression. Although by most measures the U.S. is a leader in the area of free expression, it falls short of meeting Article 19 of the ICCPR, which guarantees a right "to seek, receive and impart information . . . regardless of frontiers." The U.S. violates this right by curtailing the flow of information both into and out of the country: visas are denied to some controversial speakers; informational materials from certain countries are excluded by economic embargo laws; and Americans are restricted in their ability to travel abroad and seek and impart information independently. The U.S. also violated Article 19 by imposing severe and unjustified restrictions on the media during the Gulf War. o The Death Penalty. Article 6 of the ICCPR favors but does not require the abolition of the death penalty. It also limits the circumstances in which the death penalty may be imposed: arbitrary deprivation of life is forbidden, as is the execution of juveniles; furthermore, the death penalty may be imposed "only for the most serious crimes." The U.S. entered a reservation to the ICCPR that allows it to use capital punishment to the extent permitted under the U.S. Constitution. But for this reservation, the United States would be in violation of all of the above conditions of Article 6. o Police Brutality. The 1991 beating of Rodney King spotlights police abuse in the United States is one of the most pressing human rights issues facing the U.S. The persistent use of excessive force, often exacerbated by racism, violates the Article 7 prohibition on "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment" and the prohibition in Articles 2 and 26 against discrimination. The United States further violates Article 2 by failing to take "the necessary steps" to ensure respect for these basic rights. Human Rights Watch was established in 1978 to monitor and promote international human rights around the world. It is composed of Africa Watch, Americas Watch, Asia Watch, Helsinki Watch and Middle East Watch. Human Rights Watch also includes the Women's Rights Project, the Prison Project, the Arms Project and the Fund for Free Expression. The Chair of Human Rights Watch is Robert L. Bernstein and the Vice Chair is Adrian DeWind. Kenneth Roth is Executive Director, Holly Burkhalter is Washington Director, Gara LaMarche is Associate Director, Ellen Lutz is California Director and Susan Osnos is Press Director. The ACLU is a nationwide, nonpartisan organization of nearly 300,000 members dedicated to preserving and defending the principles set forth in the Bill of Rights. The President of the ACLU is Nadine Strossen, the Executive Director is Ira Glasser, the Legal Director is Steven R. Shapiro and the Washington Office Director is Laura Murphy Lee. Paul Hoffman is the Legal Director of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the Chair of the ACLU's International Human Rights Task Force. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- How to Order the Joint Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States The ACLU and Human Rights Watch collaborated on this landmark report, which, for the first time, evaluates U.S. compliance with the human rights standards set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICPSR). Citing major shortcomings in that compliance, the report calls on the Clinton Administration to take steps toward correcting a wide range of abuses and to make it possible to invoke ICPSR protections in U.S. court cases. Human Rights Violations In The United States. Human Rights Watch/American Civil Liberties Union. 178 pages. $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping & handling. TO ORDER: Send name/address and check/money order, payable to Human Rights Watch, to: Publications, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104 ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher://aclu.org:6601 | American Civil Liberties Union National Office ftp://aclu.org | mailto:infoaclu@aclu.org | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"

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