Jan 12 2012

What’s it like to be labeled an “armed and dangerous terrorist”?

We’ve written before about the case of Julia Shearson, a US citizen who was detained in handcuffs at gunpoint, and separated from her four-year-old daughter, when she tried to re-enter the US by land after a weekend holiday in Canada.

The DHS has admitted that they had improperly flagged her as a “suspected terrorist” on the terrorist watch list and in the (illegal) travel records system that later came to be known as the Automated Targeting System, but to this day — despite her ongoing Privacy act and FOIA lawsuit — Ms. Shearson doesn’t know why.

We urge anyone who wants to know what it’s like to be caught up in the post-9/11 dragnet to listen to this talk given by Ms. Shearson at an event last month in San Francisco, and this video also shown at that event.

Jan 12 2012

US report on human rights ignores complaints

On December 30th, 2011, the US government filed its latest report (and appendices; also here in PDF format) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) concerning US implementation of, and compliance with, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The ICCPR is one of the most important human rights treaties to which the US is a party. By the terms of the ICCPR, each party to the treaty, including the US, is required to report to the UNHCR, every five years, on its implementation of, and compliance with, its obligations under the treaty.  Following each such self-report by a national government, the UNHCR has the opportunity to pose questions both in writing and during a face-to-face hearing concerning the report and other issues of treaty compliance by that government. The UNHCR also meets with, and receives “shadow” reports (such as these regarding the previous US report) from, non-governmental organizations with concerns about the government’s self-reporting or other treaty compliance issues concerning that country.

Since the US doesn’t recognize the jurisdiction of most other international human rights tribunals, the UNHCR is one of the only independent bodies empowered to cross-examine the US government and demand answers to questions about its actions and its compliance with international law.

The fourth US report concerning the ICCPR filed in December 2011 was due a year earlier, in 2010. The UNHCR will schedule its review and response to the US report for one of its future sessions in Geneva or New York, perhaps in late 2012 or sometime in 2013.

What’s most notable about the latest US report is how much goes unmentioned, even with respect to topics raised in the previous US report. There’s no substantial discussion, for example, of the comprehensive system of control and surveillance of travelers that has been set up by the DHS, or of whether it complies with the standards established by the UNHCR for government actions which restrict the right to freedom of movement guaranteed by Article 12 of the ICCPR. We’ll be raising that issue in detail, of course, in our shadow report to the UNHCR, as we have in our previous complaints to the DHS and the Department of State. Read More