Friday, November 5, 2010

A big concern

From today's Deutsche Welle, "U.S. must tackle human rights issues, says former UN torture investigator":

Manfred Nowak served as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture from 2004 until October 2010. He is the director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights in Vienna and a professor for international human rights protection at the University of Vienna. From 1996-2003, Nowak was a judge at the Human Rights Chamber in Bosnia.

Deutsche Welle: Last year President Barack Obama reversed his predecessor's decision not to join the UN Human Rights Council and on Friday the council reviewed the US for the first time. Was Obama right to join the group?

Manfred Nowak: I certainly welcome very much that the US joined the Human Rights Council. It is the most important political body of the United Nations dealing with human rights and it is important that all the major member of the Security Council are also members of the Human Rights Council. There are also some positive developments which the US brought into the policy making of the Human Rights Council.

In its required report prior to the council's review, the US admitted problems with discrimination and immigration. What are the other human rights issues involving the US?

First of all, the US has a very bad reputation in ratifying UN and other human rights treaties and accepting monitoring procedures. It's one out of two countries in the world which has not yet ratified on the rights of the child, similarly the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women, the covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, even the Inter-American convention on human rights.

There is no individual complaints procedure. No US person can ever bring a complaint to an international body whether within the United Nations or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It has not accepted the statute of the International Criminal Court and that is of course a matter of major concern.

Another big concern is of course capital punishment. The death penalty is still fairly widely practiced in 35 states and in the federal jurisdiction and the General Assembly of the United Nations issued a strong appeal to all states to at least take action for a moratorium with the final aim of abolishing the death penalty. ...

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