Joint Oral Statement: 34th session of the Human Rights Council
Item 2: Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights
9 March 2017
IMADR and the US Human Rights Network1 (USHRN) echo the High Commissioner’s concern on the retrogressing human rights situation in the United States. While institutionalized racial discrimination has been a long-standing problem in the country, the recent Presidential election has triggered hatred against our communities – including particularly people of color, women, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQI people, and Indigenous Peoples.
Attack on Democracy. We are in a new era of human rights in the U.S. – one where we have to consider whether our democracy is working. While many questions surround the influence of Russia on the 2016 elections, the impact of biased redistricting and voter suppression laws played a clear role in a broken system that threatens to destroy our democracy.
The U.S. continues to see democracy under attack in what has been an honorable, courageous, and necessary stand against not only the power of the U.S. government, but the influence and power of oil and gas corporations. Indigenous nations in North Dakota, Louisiana, South Carolina, and California continue the generations-long struggle for their rights of sovereignty. In the first weeks of the new administration, Executive Orders aimed to dismantle the internationally codified rights of Indigenous Peoples circumvent legal obligations to address the global climate crisis, and disregard the human right to water.
The protests to protect U.S. democracy have continued to give rise to state-sanctioned suppression. More than 14 states have introduced or passed local legislation that dismantles the constitutional and human rights to protest and freely assemble, and endangers those who speak against the state. The right to openly dissent from government is officially being challenged. And if this fight is not won, the U.S. will fall to the sinister and permeating power of system-wide state sanctions, and corporate-backed oppression.
Attack on People. Indigenous, Descendant of Africans Enslaved in the US; Immigrants, Queer/Trans folks, and Women experience the injustices of the global south and continue to be the most marginalized communities in the U.S. There has been a rise in hate crimes since the election, many perpetrated against Black communities; increased surveillance of majority Black communities, including a secret aerial surveillance program in Baltimore to primarily track the movements of citizens in majority Black communities; the growing effect of spatial racism on Black communities is leading to the displacement of Black families, and the denial of important economic, social, and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights, including access to water, public transportation, or affordable housing; increased obstacles for Blacks to exercise their right to vote, including the elimination of hundreds of polling places (many of which were in or adjacent to majority Black voting districts) for the 2016 national election as well as the imposition of restrictive voter I.D. Laws that disproportionately affect Black citizens; economic violence against Black communities, including the underfunding and closure of public schools in majority Black school districts.
NGOs in consultative status (Special) with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Prior to the 2016 election, the human right to be free from racial discrimination was under attack through the generational and systemic practice and institutionalized policy of state and quasi-state actors killing of Black people. This systemic practice of state sanctioned murder was making significant inroads to a U.S. national consciousness. However, the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated an intention for the U.S. Department of Justice to “pull back” on activity aimed at police departments’ systemic use of force issues. As identified in previous Shadow Reports to the UN’s Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and Committee Against Torture (CAT), and as these monitoring bodies have found, a major human rights concern in the U.S. continues to be the pervasive lack of “prompt, thorough, and impartial” investigations of ill-treatment by law-enforcement officers, a condition that has fostered police impunity. The current US Attorney General’s view that such oversight constitutes a “war on the police” and his intention to pull back from such oversight threatens to move us further from human rights obligations and towards impunity.
2015- 2024 has been declared the International Decade for People of African Descent. In proclaiming this Decade, the international community recognizes that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. Around 200 million people that identify as being of African descent live in the Americas. We encourage the UN Human Rights Council to utilize the platform of the Decade to support measures that restore and provide reparatory and restorative justice for African descendants.
The recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities extends to Black Americans and beyond. Vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims, and false claims that migrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens, are harmful and fuel xenophobic abuses. We are alarmed that not only has Trump failed to address the rapid increase of hate-motivated incidents, but also is justifying racial discrimination on the basis of national security. New immigration policies that ban admission of people from six predominantly Muslim counties from entering the U.S. impact temporary visitors as well as legal permanent residents or green card holders. This Executive Order is a codification of discrimination - which historically in this country precedes something much worse. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids have been reported across the country while Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) is now the largest federal law enforcement agency with 15,000 new agents planned for an immediate expansion. Long-term residents, including youth that have lived in the U.S. almost all their lives and have complied with the only legal avenue offered for their authorized stay, are being deported to their country of birth. The presidential expansion of the expedited removal process eliminates an immigrant’s legal right to come to this country to seek refuge or protection from persecution. Expedited deportations could amount to collective expulsions and refoulement, in breach of international law, if undertaken without due process guarantees, including individual assessment. Like the High Commissioner, we are especially disturbed by the potential impact of these changes on children, who face being detained, or may see their families torn apart.
With this statement, we respectfully urge the UN to promote awareness by U.S. officials and people regarding the legal and ethical obligations to adhere to human rights standards to promote human dignity. In this difficult time, U.S. civil society, including those directly impacted; need the High Commissioner and his office to stand together. We call upon the Council members to strengthen support to the High Commissioner’s office, the last stronghold of human rights, so we can work together to defend human rights. Thank you Mr. President.
On behalf of:
International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) US Human Rights Network
1 The US Human Rights Network is the largest grassroots human rights organization in the United States; with a mission to build a people-centered human rights movement in the U.S., starting with those most directly affected by human rights violations. Through consultation with our national membership, we offer the following statement for consideration in order to hold the U.S. accountable to international human rights standards.