UN Human Rights Committee Hits U.S. for Human Rights Violations, Waterboarding, Demands Release of Senate Torture Report

According to the Britain’s Guardian, the UN Human Rights Committee meeting in Geneva for two days this week criticized the U.S. for a myriad of human rights violations including detention without charge at Guantanamo, drone strikes and NSA surveillance. The committee’s 18 experts raised raised questions about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of digital communications in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. It also intervened in this week’s dispute between the CIA and U.S. Senators by calling for declassification and release of the 6,300-page report into the Bush Administration’s use of torture techniques and rendition that lay behind the current CIA-Senate dispute.

The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the U.S. ratified in 1992.

The U.S. came under sustained criticism for its global counter-terrorism tactics, including the use of unmanned drones to kill al-Qaeda suspects, and its transfer of detainees to third countries that might practice torture. Committee members also highlighted the Obama Administration’s failure to prosecute any of the officials responsible for permitting waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques under the previous administration.

Walter Kälin, a Swiss international human rights lawyer who sits on the committee, attacked the U.S. government’s refusal to recognize the convention’s mandate over its actions beyond its own borders. The U.S. has asserted since 1995 that the ICCPR does not apply to U.S. actions beyond its borders – and has used that extra-territoriality claim to justify its actions in Guantánamo and in conflict zones.

This world is an unsafe place, Kälin said. “Will it not become even more dangerous if any state would be willing to claim that international law does not prevent them from committing human rights violations abroad?”

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