The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker human rights organization, and a coalition of more than 140 U.S.-based non-profits and organizations and 32 individuals have released what it claims is "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 routine 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 the 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.
"The U.S. has been previously cited by the United Nation as an egregious human rights violator," said Tonya McClary, national coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee Criminal Justice program, which questions the morality and monitors the effectiveness of the United States' penal system. "The principal offender is the prison system. Because prisons are a closed system, operating in secrecy, the public does not comprehend the extreme forms of abuse, violence, and racism practiced daily behind bars."
"Prisons are one of the largest growth industries in the United States," according to McClary. "With only 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. holds an astounding 25 percent of the world's prison population."
"To make matters worse, race and poverty drive public policy and law enforcement. Police brutality, racial and gender profiling and use of excessive force are commonplace," McClary adds. "U.S. prisoners are mostly poor and working-class people who need jobs and education."
The "shadow report" is a rebuttal to the official U.S. report. Among the issues it documents are:
- Persistent and widespread abuses by law enforcement agents across the U.S.: Ongoing police brutality and abuse, in the form of unjustified shootings, use of excessive force, including excessive and abusive use of TASERs, extraction of coerced confessions, and rape, sexual assault, and unlawful strip searches by police and other law enforcement officers, including immigration authorities, as well as racial and gender profiling;
- Immigration: The physical and sexual abuse and the intimidation many immigrants face when they are detained at the border, at airports, and by federal, state, and local law enforcement and immigration officers; the failure of U.S. immigration law to adequately protect refugees, asylum seekers and immigrant families and respect their right to due process, and discrimination against migrant workers;
- Hurricane Katrina: The racially discriminatory evacuation of New Orleans, the failure to protect against unnecessary loss of life, pervasive abuses by law enforcement and military personnel in the days and months following the storm and discriminatory policies in the hurricane's aftermath that have restricted residents' right to vote, ability to participate in the rebuilding process and access to basic necessities;
- Juvenile Justice, Domestic Use of Torture and Prison Conditions within the United States, such as the sentencing of youth and teens to life in prison without the possibility of parole; shackling women prisoners during childbirth, limitations on prisoners' access to courts, lack of access to adequate health care, rape and discrimination against minorities that violate international human rights standards.