The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law under the guidance of Senators Durbin and Coburn is holding its inaugural hearing on the domestic implementation of human rights treaty obligations, tomorrow, Wednesday, December 16th. The hearing will focus on how the U.S. government is currently upholding human rights treaties to which it is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Convention Against Torture, the Genocide Convention, the Refugee Protocol, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Children in Armed Conflict, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Child Prostitution, and will also examine what more the U.S. government could do to fulfill its treaty obligations to protect and promote human rights.
Witnesses will include:
· Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil
Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
· Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human
Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State
· Wade Henderson, President and Chief Executive Officer,
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
· Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer, Human
Additionally, our coalition partner, the Rights Working Group (RWG), will submit testimony on how the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called for specific reforms under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) to combat racial profiling in the U.S., including many recommendations that both RWG and ACLU initially submitted in a report to the U.N. Committee, which have yet to be implemented.
Particularly concerned about the impact of post 9/11 policies that have eroded the civil liberties and human rights of communities of color, RWG’s testimony will draw upon Article 2 of ICERD, which states:
“Each State Party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination whereever it exists.”
And their statement will endeavor to remind the Subcommittee that after reviewing the U.S. record of implementation of its obligations under ICERD, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted several Concluding Observations, in particular, Paragraph 14, which addressed a number of U.S. laws and policies that needed immediate attention. For example, the UN Committee specifically called on the U.S. to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), to strengthen the June 2003 Department of Justice Guidance on the Use of Race in Law Enforcement, to end the National Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS) and repeal §287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act passed in 1996.
Because none of the above Concluding Observations, were implemented, RWG will also present the following list of critical recommendations to ensure that the U.S. is properly executing its obligations under ICERD by implementing the recommendations of the UN Committee:
• Introduce and pass the “End Racial Profiling Act”
• Strengthen the 2003 DOJ guidance to ban profiling based on religion and national origin, eliminate the loopholes that allow for the use of race and ethnicity in the name of national security and border security, and make the guidance enforceable
• Terminate the NSEERS program
• Repeal 287(g) and eliminate all programs that devolve the responsibility for the
enforcement of federal immigration law to state and local law enforcement agencies.
The ACLU will also be presenting testimony that calls upon Congress and the current administration to “correct the transgressions of the past [administration] by honoring U.S. human rights obligations and commitments, and using our commitment as a beacon for setting policy at home and abroad.” Their specific recommendations entail the need for Congress to effectuate our human rights treaty obligations by transforming them into detailed domestic laws, policies and programs with effective enforcement and monitoring mechanisms through the active engagement with other branches of the government to certify that our treaties are being promoted and respected at all levels.
The importance of this hearing cannot be overstated; it is the first oversight hearing on human rights treaty implementation since 1992, when the Senate ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). And this Committee was initially eliminated at the beginning of the 111th Congress, and Senator Durbin and his staff fought to get it back. So, let’s make sure we pack the hearing room to show strong support for the Subcommittee’s interest in and continued monitoring of human rights issues.
If you’re in Washington tomorrow, and can attend this critical public hearing, see the details below:
The Law of the Land: U.S. Implementation of Human Rights Treaties
Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law
Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226