Friday, July 21, 2006

U.S. Criticized for Human Rights Record

The Australian reports:

Chanet said the committee rejected the US interpretation of the rules and that its conclusions would reflect this difference of opinion.

THE head of a UN human rights body on Friday slammed Washington over its claim that a string of international rules do not apply to the "war on terror" detention centre in Guantanamo Bay or military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Christine Chanet, the chair of the UN Human Rights Committee, criticised the United States over its attitude during hearings where Washington's delegation reaffirmed its longstanding position.

The committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is not a "rubber stamp" for any government, Chanet told journalists.

Like all 156 nations which are party to the covenant, the United States is bound to produce regular reports for the committee and submit to hearings before its 18 independent experts every few years.

"The committee isn't just there to take delivery of a report and note it down like the clerk of a court," said Chanet.

US officials took part in a hearing on Monday and Tuesday, but the committee's findings are not scheduled to be released until July 28.

Chanet said the committee rejected the US interpretation of the rules and that its conclusions would reflect this difference of opinion.

The US delegates had intially declined to respond to questions about Guantanamo and other overseas operations.

In the end, they submitted answers, but said the move was out of courtesy rather than signalling a change in position.

"They found themselves on the defensive and they contested the mandate of the committee" to spotlight a government's record beyond its borders, Chanet said.

Chanet noted that the committee's role had been recognised both by the International Court of Justice and the US Supreme Court.

She also recalled that during the 1991 Gulf War, Washington was among the governments which voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution recognising that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applied outside a nation's borders.

"You can't deny the role given to us by treaty," said Chanet, adding that the United States was "in a situation of isolation over its unilateral interpretation of international treaty law."

She also pointed to "major problems" because of the US legal position in other areas, including the death penalty, as well as the rights of children.

Apart from Somalia, which has not had a functioning government for more than a decade, the United States is the only country in the world not to have ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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