U.N. TO PROBE U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

U.S. NON-PROFITS SUBMIT 465-PAGE “SHADOW REPORT” DETAILING ABUSES AT HOME

PROPAGANDA FOR WAR
ISSUE TO BE REVIEWED

Contacts:
Gillian Gilhool, WILPF U.S.
215-923-7789, email: grgilhool@verizon.net

Susi Snyder, WILPF International
office: +41 22 919 7080, mobile: +41 79 813 8369, email: susi.snyder@wilpf.ch

GENEVA, JULY 5, 2006—Today, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) joined a coalition of 142 U.S.-based non-profits and organizations and 32 individuals to release the most comprehensive review of human rights violations in the United States ever compiled. The 465-page “shadow report” was assembled for the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee as part of its review of U.S. human rights abuses later this month.

The U.N. review is a procedure that occurs every four years for countries that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR is one of two treaties that together are equivalent to an international “Bill of Rights.” The U.S. signed and ratified the treaty in 1992, but the U.S. review – its second – is more than seven years late due to the State Department’s delay in submitting its own official report.

Last year, the U.N. warned that it would commence reviewing the U.S. without the official report if it were delayed any longer. The State Department submitted its official report on October 21, 2005.

Drawing attention to ICCPR’s prohibition of propaganda for war, Gillian Gilhool, a lawyer with WILPF’s Human Rights Committee, noted that “the violations the Committee is examining in this review, including violations of the right to life, to be free from torture and to due process committed by the United States in relation to the war in Iraq and life- and health-threatening cutbacks in social programs in the United States, also violations, have their roots in the propaganda campaign of the Bush administration which produced this illegal war.”

The “shadow report” is a rebuttal to the official U.S. report. Among the issues it documents are:

Propaganda for War: In clear violation of Article 20 of the ICCPR, the Bush administration used a campaign of unsubstantiated, inflated and sometimes clearly false propaganda to mobilize domestic and international support for the illegal invasion of Iraq. Its actions subverted the democratic imperative that public discourse relating to resolving of international conflicts be based on information and knowledge free from distortion by governmental propaganda;

Immigration: The physical abuse and intimidation many immigrants face when they are detained at the border and at airports, the failure of U.S. immigration law to protect immigrant families and respect their right to due process, and discrimination against migrant workers;

Hurricane Katrina: The discriminatory nature of evacuation plans for New Orleans, the failure to protect against unnecessary loss of life, the discriminatory policies in the hurricane's aftermath resulting in violations of the right to vote, ignoring residents’ “right of return” and right to participate in the rebuilding process, and continued denials of access to basic necessities.

WILPF, whose work for human rights in the U.S. is informed by the human rights advocacy of its sections in 35 other countries, believes that a strong and democratic United Nations is integral to ending war and preventing armed conflict. U.S. “exceptionalism,” its disregard for the core elements of the U.N. Charter and the ICCPR, jeopardizes the well being not just of those living within the U.S. but of everyone living on earth.

On July 10, members of the coalition will present findings from the report to the committee in Geneva. Susi Snyder, Secretary General at WILPF’s headquarters in Geneva, will follow the work of the committee in reviewing U.S. human rights performance, along with additional WILPF staff. Representatives of the State Department and other federal agencies are expected to answer questions from the committee on July 17-18.

Last May after hearings held by the U.N.’s Committee Against Torture—an international review process similar to the human rights hearing that will be held in July—the Committee Against Torture demanded that the U.S. close the prison at Guantanamo.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee is expected to release its findings on July 28, 2006.

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