United States of America: More constructive dialogue on the implementation of ICCPR

Overview 110th Session – United States of America

Fourth Report of United States of America on the 13th and 14th of March 2014 (CCPR/C/USA/4). As pointed out by the Chair of the Committee, the dialogue was much more constructive than the previous review held in 2006, it was reflective of “President Obama’s will to enhance international cooperation in the field of human rights”.

In its reply to the list of issues, United States delegation presented several new legislations and institutions developed in the last few years to improve the implementation of the Covenant. Raising concerns in the List of Issues, several Committee members were extremely troubled about limitations of the territorial application of the Covenant. The non application of the Covenant outside to the US territory led the to impunity and rights violations said a Committee member in a very strong statement.

Regarding the issue of right to life under article 6, the Committee was extremely worried about the high number of persons killed by fire-arms, most victims being children or juveniles. Several Committee members were deeply concerned with the “stand-your-ground” laws on self-defense which are incompatible with the Covenant. Other violations on right to life included persons wrongfully sentenced to death, excessive use of Tasers and lethal force by police officers.

Allegations of torture during interrogations in the context of the war on terror as well as 154 persons detained in Guantanamo were also discussed at length and the Committee disagreed when the US delegation affirmed that the “US has legal authority to hold Guantanamo detainees until the end of hostilities”.

Other issues raised by the Committee included non-consensual use of psychiatric medication, confinement of more than 80’000 detainees, deportation and the mandatory detention of immigrants and asylum seekers as well as intelligence data collection.

The Concluding Observations selected for the follow-up procedure, under which the State should provide information on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations within one year, are: paragraph 5 on accountability for past human rights violations, specifically covert government programmes related to the War on Terror; paragraph 10 on gun violence and review Stand Your Ground Laws to adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality; paragraph 21 on the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, in which transfers should be expedited and end the system of administrative detention without charge or trial and paragraph 22 on the National Security Agency,  to take all necessary measures to ensure that its surveillance activities, both within and outside the United States, conform to its obligations under the Covenant.

The next periodic report should be submitted by 28 March 2019. This five-years deadline shows an improvement in the ICCPR implementation at the domestic level and it contrasts with the previous review where the Committee requested that a US report should be submitted within four years (2006-2010).

For more information, see the press briefing from the OHCHR.

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