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UN panel slams US rights practices in wide-ranging report

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] slammed current US rights practices in a report [PDF text] released Friday, saying among other things that the US needs to close all alleged secret detention facilities and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross [advocacy website] access to all detainees held at the alleged prisons. The committee noted that it has information that the secret detention centers have existed for a long time, and added that it would not accept the United States' argument that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text] does not apply to people outside the US borders. The Covenant addresses basic individual rights, including equality before the law, protection against torture and arbitrary arrest. The Committee wrote it was:

...concerned by credible and uncontested information that the State party has seen fit to engage in the practice of detaining people secretly and in secret places for months and years on end, without even keeping the International Committee of the Red Cross informed. In such cases, the rights of the families of the detained persons have also been violated. It is further concerned that, even when such persons may have their detention acknowledged, they and others have been held for months or years in prolonged incommunicado detention...The State party should immediately abolish all secret detention and secret detention facilities. It should also grant prompt access by the International Committee of the Red Cross to any person detained in connection with armed conflict. It should only detain persons in places in which they can enjoy the full protection of the law.
The US Mission in Geneva [official website] issued a statement [text] defending US compliance with the ICCPR, saying that the committee report "loses perspective and credibility when it spends more time criticizing the United States than countries with no civil and political rights."

The committee's comments came in its first review of the United States since 1995, after the US submitted its own report [text; JURIST report] to the committee last fall.

The committee also recommended that US personnel who authorized interrogation techniques that amount to torture of prisoners should be punished, that the US should allow Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to challenge their treatment before a court, and that the US should implement a moratorium on capital punishment [AP report], citing evidence that US courts hand death sentences to minorities and poor people disproportionately. AP has more.

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