An American contingent headed by Michael Posner met with the UN Human Rights Commission on November 5 for the first ever review of the human rights record of the United States.
The review, reported Free Speech Radio News, was a three hour long session in which the US faced allegations and accusations from a variety of sources head-on. Criticism came from over 50 UN Council members as well as a number of human rights organizations. The
The Washington Post said a few nations "camped out overnight" in order to have an opportunity to share their criticism of the United States on its Human Rights record. Chief among them was Iran and Cuba.
Fox News panned the review process, noting that the UN Human Rights Council members "... includes such notorious human rights violators as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia." However, Reuters said the United States faced criticism from "friend and foe alike."
The topics raised during the review ranged from racial profiling, the death penalty, and Guantanamo Bay, among many others subjects, reported Radio Free Europe.
President Barack Obama signed the order to close Guantanamo Bay, also known as 'Gitmo,' in late January 2009 reported Boston. The facility was slated to close "within a year." The decision was welcomed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. In a statement, Pillay said “I warmly welcome this decision. The fact that President Obama has placed such a high priority on closing Guantanamo and set in motion a system to safeguard the fundamental rights of the detainees there is extremely encouraging. The United States has in the past been a staunch supporter of international human rights law, and this is one of the reasons that the regime that was established in Guantanamo has been viewed as so damaging.
Water-boarding and other forms of interrogation that may amount to torture, detention for prolonged periods without trial or proper judicial review, and what became known as ‘extraordinary rendition’ – these are all aberrations that should never have happened."
At the end of Friday's UN review, reported Reuters, the United States held a press conference, during which US representative Michael Posner said "We feel we got a fair hearing. This is part of an ongoing process to engage with the Council and the UN." Posner is the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Al Jazeera reported that the UN Human Rights Council will issue recommendations for the United States on Tuesday. The United States is to tell the Council which recommendations will be adopted by March of next year.
President Obama is now finding himself in a very difficult position, facing accusations of torturing detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, as well as a global insistence that Gitmo be closed, and facing resistance from American political opponents who wish to keep the facility open. Al Jazeera reported the United States met with the UN Human Rights Commission on Friday to address accusations of torture during the first review of the human rights record of the United States. All members of the Council are facing a similar review said Al Jazeera.
Currently there are about 170 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, BBC said. A plan to move those prisoners to a facility in Illinois has been thwarted by Congress, which has refused to release the funds required to facilitate the transfer. The BBC said it is not known when the Cuban-based facility might be closed.
Prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are living in a legal limbo, detained indefinitely without trial. The ACLU says there are nearly 200 prisoners kept at Gitmo, and the organization is agitating for the the closure of the facility, but as the Hindustan Times reported, closure of the facility is not likely to happen now that the American mid-term elections saw the Republicans gain the balance of power. The Republicans have been against closing Gitmo.
The United States has refused to participate in human rights reviews under previous presidential leadership,.