The American Civil Liberties Union and over forty other non-governmental organizations appeared today to monitor testimony delivered by the United States government to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) about its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a major international human rights treaty ratified by the United State in 1992.
The United States filed its written report last October with the HRC, more than seven years after it was due. It is the first report to be filed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the "global war on terror." HRC members aggressively questioned the delegation about warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Administration, the detention and torture of non citizens, immigration, racial profiling, the definition of "terrorism," and evacuation plans used in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
During the questioning, several committee members took the time to make observations about the government's report. Committee members expresssed concern about the practice in the United States of sentencing juveniles to life without parole. In Michigan, there are over 350 people serving these sentences for crimes committed when they were less than 18 years old. Those sentenced have absolutely no chance of release unless a governor is willing to grant clemency, which is highly unusual.
Mr. Rajsoomer Lalah, from Mauritius, suggested that the NSA spying program was "creating a state of siege." the ACLU has filed a case in Detroit challenging the constitutionality of the spying program which was heard last week before federal court judge Anna Diggs Taylor.
Sir Nigel Robley, from the United Kingdom, expressed "astonishment" and "dismay" over reports of detention and torture of non citizens by the U.S. government.
Kary Moss, Director of the ACLU of Michigan, observed at the completion of the three hour hearing: “This was an important day. It became clear as the hearing progressed that the committee members have real concerns about whether the United States is in violation of this international treaty."