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UN rights council makes recommendations for US to improve record

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] issued recommendations Tuesday for the US to align its human rights policies and practices with international standards. The recommendations stem from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [official website; JURIST report] of the US government's human rights record before the UNHRC in Geneva. The list of 228 recommendations by other nations included repeated calls to abolish the death penalty [AP report], as well as reduce overcrowding in prisons, ratify international treaties on the rights of women and children, and increase measures to prevent racial profiling. US State Department legal adviser [official website] Harold Koh [academic profile] responded to the recommendations by stating that capital punishment is not precluded by international law. Koh also said the US government would take the recommendations into consideration to strengthen its commitment to human rights and comply with international standards. This was the US government's first UPR evaluation before the UNHRC.

At the opening of the fifteenth session of the UNHRC in September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] emphasized the need for protection of human rights both during emergencies and on a regular basis. However, she chided countries [JURIST report], including the US, France, China and Russia, for ongoing human rights violations. In August, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] released its human rights review [JURIST report] and presented the report to the UNHRC. In the report, the DOS acknowledged the US government's historical struggle with some human rights issues including gender and racial equality, but noted the progress made in both areas. The Obama administration received criticism from both human rights groups and US politicians for initially not taking part [press release] in the UPR sessions, a process which each of the 192 UN member states must undergo every four years [JURIST comment]. The US was elected to the UNHRC [JURIST report] in May 2009. The UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006, at which time the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment.

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