GENEVA: Major powers, including allies, criticised the United States for its human rights record on Monday (Nov 9) during a UN review, citing the use of the death penalty, police violence against African-Americans and the separation of migrant children from their families.

Activists also said that the Human Rights Council’s examination of the United States, the first since May 2015, amounted to an indictment of the Trump administration’s policies and called for President-elect Joe Biden to usher in reforms.

Dozens of delegations took the floor at the half-day session to voice concerns and make recommendations.

“What we saw today was unsurprising condemnation by many countries around the world of the United States’ human rights record,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the human rights programme at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told a news briefing.

“We’ve heard country after country … calling and urging the United States to take serious measures to address structural racism and police violence,” he said.

The Trump administration, which quit the Geneva forum in June 2018 accusing it of an anti-Israel bias, defended US policies.

“Our presence in this process demonstrates our nation’s commitment to human rights,” Robert Destro, US Assistant Secretary of State, told the talks.

The case of George Floyd, an African-American who died in May after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, ignited massive protests across the United States and the world, putting the country’s human rights record in the global spotlight once again.

Demonstrators hold signs depicting George Floyd

Demonstrators hold signs depicting George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody, during a protest against police brutality and racial inequality in Brooklyn, New York, on Jun 13, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs)

Alexander Maugeri, US deputy assistant attorney general, said that authorities in Minnesota had filed second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd’s death.

“A number of member states raised concerns about discrimination and excessive force in policing. Where there is misconduct by police officers or law enforcement agencies, state and federal law provide remedies,” Maugeri said.

China and Russia called on the United States to root out racism and police violence, while Cuba and Venezuela said it must provide equal access to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

France called on US authorities to halt executions at the federal level, close Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and “guarantee women and girls access to their rights and sexual and reproductive health”. Britain called for “ensuring access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services”.

Joshua Cooper of the US Human Rights Network, a national network of campaigners, said that more than a dozen countries voiced concern at the US position on family planning.

“The United States made clear that they don’t see abortion as a human right,” said Denice Labertew of the Women LEAD network.



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