Saturday, March 19, 2011
The United Nations has completed its first ever assessment of the United States human rights record, which began last November. They made 228 recommendations for improvements. On Friday, the U.S. accepted about 174 of these, agreeing to such recommendations as the humane treatment of terror suspects and repudiation of torture, but rejected the recommendation to drop the death penalty.
The Legal Adviser of the Department of State, Harold Koh, listed nine core areas in which the U.S. agreed to make improvements, including civil rights, immigration, and the humane treatment of suspects held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Koh said President Obama agreed to push for ratification of conditions under the Geneva Conventions and to add protections for international armed conflict detainees. Koh refused to drop the death penalty as many European countries requested, arguing that it was legal under international law.
Some nations wanted the U.S. to reduce prison overcrowding, prevent racial profiling, and ratify international treaties protecting the rights of women and children. China and Russia wanted Guantanamo to be shut down. Cuba, Iran and Venezuela said the U.S. was ignoring too many recommendations.
The Obama administration joined the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council two years ago, allowing for increased international scrutiny. This is the first time the five-year-old council has reviewed the U.S. record of human rights. Nations are held accountable to make the improvements in the recommendations that they agree to.
In criticism of the U.S., the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, Jamil Dakwar, noted that the U.S., unlike 100 other countries, lacks an independent human rights monitoring commission.