The right to freedom of movement and travel is recognized in black-letter international human rights treaty law as Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Every five years, pursuant to the treaty itself, implementation of the ICCPR by each treaty party is reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
The U.S. will be reviewed next month, with two days of public questioning of a high-level U.S. government delegation by the members of the Human Rights Committee at its 110th session in Geneva.
In preparation for that review, the Human Rights Committee has been consulting with human rights advocates in the U.S. and abroad, through written submissions and private face-to-face meetings.
The Identity Project has been an active participant in that process, as part of the U.S. Human Rights Network.
In December 2012, we reported to the Human Rights Committee that that the US has put in place systems of government surveillance and control of travel, enabled by technology to be more comprehensive than the Stasi could ever have imagined. In March 2013, we traveled to Geneva to discuss our report with members of the Human Rights Committee.
This week, in preparation for another trip to Geneva and further meetings with the Human Rights Committee and the U.S. delegation to the U.N. next month, we submitted updates to the Human Rights Committee on how the US violations of the ICCPR have continued and worsened in the last year:
- Executive Order 13107 and complaints and remedies for violations of the ICCPR
- Violations of the right to freedom of movement (ICCPR Article 12)
The US treats travel not as a right but as as a privilege that requires government permission; which can be restricted by secret extrajudicial “no-fly” orders; and which justifies intrusive searches and government monitoring and recording of each individual’s movements in a lifetime travel history, which is used to decide whether to give permission for future travels.
The US is now attempting to make these practices a new global norm, rolling back worldwide progress on freedom of movement. For this reason, it is important for the Human Rights Committee to question the US about its controls on travel.
And it is critical to freedom of movement worldwide for the Human Rights Committee, at the conclusion of its review of US implementation of the ICCPR, to reject permission-based controls on free movement, and to reaffirm that the threat of terrorism does not eliminate the right to freedom of movement.
The questioning of the U.S. delegation by the Human Rights Committee will be webcast, and we’ll have a report form Geneva following the release of the Committee’s concluding observations.