UNHRC: Periodic Rights Review (US edition, part 2)
Élan Vital 2012-10-13
Earlier this year I wrote a bit about the latest UNHRC periodic rights review of the US, something that happens for every country once every four years. Norway offered the most excellent advice, making 7 solid apolitical recommendations.
They didn’t rehash international policy disputes or convention-signing, which can be nominal at best: and focused instead on essential changes that can be carried out now, and would be historically significant. If we implemented their 7 recs, our nation would be a better place. Here they are, consolidated (with the # of the rec, and our response):
- Consider a human rights institution at the federal level to ensure implementation of human rights in all states (74: yes, will consider, but no current plan)
- Take further measures in economic and social rights for women and minorities, including equal access to decent work and reducing the number of homeless people (113: yes)
- Take measures to eradicate all forms of torture and illtreatment of detainees by military or civilian personnel, in any territory of jurisdiction, and that any such acts be thoroughly investigated (139: yes)
- Take steps to set federal and state-level moratoria on executions with a view to abolish the death penalty nationwide (122: blanket no)
- Review federal and state legislation with a view to restricting the number of offences carrying the death penalty (132: blanket no)
- Apply the model legal framework of the Leahy Laws to all countries receiving US security assistance, with human rights records of all units receiving such assistance documented, evaluated, made available and followed up upon in cases of abuse (227: no more than now. ‘we already do this, but in secret’)
- Remove the blanket abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid covering medical care given to women and girls who are raped and impregnated in armed conflict (228: no, sorry. “due to currently applicable restrictions”)
The death penalty is increasingly considered outmoded and barbaric in most of the world, yet in our domestic discussions it is seen as a reasonable option – more a matter of regional preference than a fundamental moral matter. 35 states currently allow it.
And what’s up with the 7th point above? The US has imposed restrictions on its international aid funding over the past few decades to prevent aid recipients from using those funds to provide abortions or suggest them as an option for family planning. The most well-known example of this is the Mexico City Policy , instated by Reagan and since repealed or reinstated by each preseident in the first days of his term, along party lines. This affected roughly $100M of aid given to family planning programs; and is also called the “global gag rule” because it prohibited aid recipients from using any of their funds for abortion care.
Today, while the MCP stands repealed, there are other similar restrictions in force – including the one highlighted by Norway. They are reportedly the first country to bring the issue up in an international setting, as part of a campaign launched with the Global Justice Center.
Overall, I am fascinated at how unified and sane most of these recommendations are. It reminds me that peer review by a large group of peers tends toward the awesome, constructive side of the scale, even when the peer group includes some trolling and posturing.