HRI Counsel JoAnn Kamuf Ward traveled to Geneva for the 15th session of the Human Rights Council to brief U.N. delegates and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the current U.S. human rights record. HRI is urging the U.S. to ratify core human rights treaties, including the women’s rights treaty, children’s rights treaty and the disability rights’ treaty as a signal of its commitment to uphold human rights.
On February 26, 2010, HRI hosted a consultation between the Obama Administration and civil society, providing individuals and organizations the opportunity to share their perspective on the Administration’s human rights record and make recommendations for improvement. The agenda and list of government participants are available here, while civil society statements can be found below. The State Department summaries of each of the consultations held across the country are available here.
Civil society organizations submitted 26 cluster reports on a range of issues including migrant rights, the right to adequate housing, the right to work with dignity, LGBT rights, discrimination, criminal justice and rights of persons with disabilities. The U.S. Human Rights Network published a compilation of these reports, available here. The Human Rights Institute coordinated a cluster report on treaty ratification and implementation that can be viewed here.
Written Testimonies from the New York UPR Consultation:
HRI works to develop strategies and models for implementing the U.S.’s human rights treaty obligations at the federal, state and local levels. HRI’s Treaty Implementation Initiative was launched in response to calls from U.S. officials, domestic activists, and U.N. treaty bodies for the US to develop a coordinated and comprehensive approach to treaty implementation, including monitoring and reporting, and in preparation for a new U.S. administration. This effort builds on HRI’s work with the shadow reporting efforts around the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2006, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2008.
As part of the Treaty Implementation Initiative, the HRI conducts research and interviews experts within the United States and from around the world on how human rights treaties are implemented in their respective countries. This research focuses on both mechanisms and effectiveness. HRI, through Professor Peter Rosenblum, works with students in the Columbia Human Rights Clinic to evaluate Human Rights Commissions (also known as National Human Rights Institutions or NHRIs) in other countries as potential models for the United States.
HRI develops litigation models and trainings focused on the use of comparative and international human rights law and strategies to expand state constitutional and statutory protections for social and economic rights. This project builds the capacity of state litigators and legal services attorneys around the country to incorporate international human rights strategies into their ongoing work. As part of this work, in collaboration with partner organizations National Economic and Social Rights Institute (NESRI) and Northeastern Law School’s Program on Human Rights in the Global Economy (PHRGE), we recently produced a handbook on Poverty Law and Human Rights, along with supplementary materials. HRI also develops models for implementing and incorporating international human rights law in specific subject areas, primarily in the area of domestic violence and access to justice.
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law hosted a hearing on "The Law of the Land: U.S. Implementation of Human Rights Treaties," on December 16, 2009. Members of the BHRH Lawyers' Network submitted official statements for inclusion in the Congressional Record. The statements are available below:
HRI worked closely with the U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN) and Global Rights around the planning, organizing, fundraising, and coordination of U.S. civil society groups around the U.N. review of U.S. compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and played a supportive role for the coordination around the review, which was held on February 21-22, 2008, in Geneva. HRI coordinated and drafted critical chapters of CERD shadow reports, focusing on the need for effective treaty implementation, state and local implementation and effective remedies; discrimination against minority and immigrant victims of domestic violence; racial discrimination against Haitian asylum seekers; and racial disparities in juvenile life without parole sentences. In March 2008, the CERD Committee released its Concluding Observations, which addressed many of the areas covered by our shadow reports. HRI is currently engaged in follow-up efforts with coalition partners and through the BHRH Lawyers’ Network to ensure the United States’ compliance with the Concluding Observations.
HRI also works to develop and support local implementation models and initiatives. HRI is on the Steering Committee of the New York City Human Rights Initiative, a citywide coalition that has proposed the Human Rights in Government Operations Audit Law (“NYC Human Rights GOAL”), ground-breaking legislation re-introduced to the New York City Council in March 2008 that directly incorporates principles of non-discrimination, participation, accountability and transparency from CERD and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) into the New York City Human Rights Law. We are also exploring models for state and city human rights commissions to implement human rights norms at the local level.