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March 17, 2011

Upcoming Koh UPR Testimony Presents Opportunity for U.S. Leadership

Washington, DC – On Friday, State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh is scheduled to deliver the U.S. response to more than 200 recommendations made by other governments as part of the United States’ first universal period review (UPR). Koh’s Geneva remarks will serve as a capstone to the review process, a Human Rights Council examination every U.N. member state undergoes every four years. Human Rights First has actively participated in the U.S. UPR and today issued recommendations on what should be included in the U.S. response. “U.S. engagement with civil society throughout the UPR process has been commendable. We urge the U.S. government to continue to work with nongovernmental organizations to make concrete policy changes to bring its practices into compliance with universal human rights norms, even as the UPR spotlight shifts to other countries,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “Doing so will encourage a high standard for other governments to meet.” With regard to issues related to immigration detention, Human Rights First is calling on Koh to:
  • Commit to revising regulatory language to provide arriving asylum seekers and other immigrants who are held in immigration detention with the chance to have their custody reviewed in a hearing before an immigration court. Current U.S. detention procedures do not comply with  Article 9(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); and
  • Commit to expanding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) use of alternatives to detention and reducing reliance on prisons and prison-like facilities. ICE should not only to improve management of and conditions in the immigration detention system, but also effect the 2009 announcement by the Department of Homeland Security that it will shift away from the current penal model toward less penal detention conditions when detention is necessary in accordance with international human rights standards.
As Koh addresses topics related to counterterrorism, Human Rights First is urging him to:
  • Commit to a full investigation of allegations of past acts of torture and other cruelty;
  • Explain the administration’s plans to hasten the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility;
  • Commit the United States to sign or, at a minimum, recognize the importance of and consider signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Human Rights First’s submission on the U.S. Universal Periodic Review to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights can be accessed here, and a guide to key issues of concern for refugees in the context of the U.S. UPR can be found here.

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