U.S. Wins Seat on U.N. Human Rights Council
May 15, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
On Tuesday, the United States won a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Each of the 47 members of the council is not only responsible for promoting human rights abroad, but they are also responsible for setting a high standard for human rights in their own countries. In support of its candidacy, the U.S. pledged to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons within the United States."
Civil and human rights advocates saw the U.S.' decision to join the council as an opportunity for the Obama administration to embrace human rights principles and address certain issues, like racial profiling, life sentences without parole for juveniles, Katrina recovery. Many of those same recommendations were echoed in a recent U.N. report on U.S. race relations and human rights (PDF).
In 2008, human rights scholar Catherine Powell recommended that the incoming administration put together a working group of experts and senior officials from various federal agencies including the departments of Justice, State, Defense, Homeland Security and others to ensure greater integration of human rights principles in domestic policy. Such a group could be created by an executive order by the president.
Earlier this year, LCCREF issued a report calling for Congress to broaden the mandate of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights so that it could monitor compliance with international human rights treaties on the federal, state, and local level.