NEW ORLEANS, LA - On the same day that the American Civil Liberties Union released a report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee condemning the U.S. government for failing to comply with its treaty obligations to protect and preserve a range of human rights protections at home and abroad, the ACLU of Louisiana held a day of action designed to emphasize how a human rights framework can be used domestically.
"In Louisiana, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina exposed the raw underbelly of racial injustice, especially in a broken and shameful criminal justice system," said Joe Cook, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana. "In particular, we saw inmates, largely people of color, abandoned in their cells at Orleans Parish Prison and engulfed by the floodwaters. Furthermore, criminal defendants have gone without legal representation and languished for months on end in jails and prisons across the state. The Louisiana ACLU highlighted this tragedy in its contribution to a wide ranging report released today and sent to the U.N. as a way to pressure our government to meet its international treaty obligations."
ACLU affiliates across the country are recognizing that human rights begin at home with a day of action in Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan and Texas. The intent of the day is to educate Americans about their human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to demand U.S. accountability for human rights violations, and to call for the protection and realization of human rights on the local, state and federal level. Representatives from ACLU affiliates will be part of the delegation traveling to Geneva next month.
Today, we hosted an event for other community groups discussing international human rights law, and identified ways that community activists can utilize international law by using ACLU involvement with the ICCPR report as a model. The ACLU of Louisiana wants to get community members involved with demanding that our government meet its human rights obligations at home.
The report, Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (see link below) documents the U.S. record on human rights in five areas: national security, women's rights, racial justice, immigrants? rights and religious freedom. Drawing attention to some of the most vulnerable members of society, including women, children, minorities, immigrants and the accused, the report provides a detailed description of human rights violations in the United States. In addition, the report highlights how in the wake on September 11, 2001, Arabs, Muslims and South Asians, and to some extent all immigrants, were victims of discriminatory targeting by the government. It draws attention to the erosion of the right to privacy, discussing expanded surveillance and the government?s growing use of the states secret privilege to avoid accountability for abuses.
The ACLU recommendations urge the United States to:
The Human Rights Committee is the U.N. body of experts charged with monitoring countries compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the primary human rights treaty. The United States ratified the treaty in 1992. The committee will review the official submission of the U.S. government on July 17 and 18 in Geneva. The ACLU will send a delegation to present the report and monitor the proceedings.
"America should be a beacon of freedom throughout the world, not a country that violates the basic human rights of its own people," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU.
Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is available online at http://www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/25924pub20060620.html>.
The ACLU's new Human Rights Program is dedicated to holding the U.S. government accountable to universally recognized human rights principles. The Human Rights Program is charged with incorporating international human rights strategies into ACLU advocacy on issues relating to national security, immigrants' rights, women's rights and racial justice.