Groups Travel to Geneva for U.N. Review of U.S. Human Rights Record

Center for Constitutional Rights is accompanying three delegations, joining dozens of U.S. civil society orgs in calling for accountability

October 12, 2023, Geneva – For the first time in nine years, the U.N. Human Rights Committee will review U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on October 17 and 18 in Geneva The Center for Constitutional Rights is joining dozens of other U.S. civil society organizations and directly impacted people in petitioning the U.N. to hold the U.S. government accountable for policies and practices that violate the treaty. The delegations are in Geneva October 12-19.

Said Nadia Ben-Youssef, Advocacy Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, “The scope of the violations outlined in civil society reports and in the testimonies of directly impacted people fundamentally calls into question the United States’ commitment to human rights. The U.S. has eroded the full range of civil and political rights guaranteed by the ICCPR, particularly for racialized and marginalized communities, and the United States’ continued impunity for such blatant disregard of its international obligations degrades human rights protections not only for communities in the U.S. but for people and social movements around the world. That the Center for Constitutional Rights and our partners join over 100 other delegates from across the country traveling to Geneva to expose U.S. violations and demand international attention demonstrates both the gravity of our present reality as well as the growing power of our movements.” 

The United States is obligated to abide by the ICCPR, one of only three international human rights treaties the country has ratified. Guided by input from participating civil society organizations, committee members will question U.S. government officials on a range of fundamental human rights, including indigenous rights, voting rights, freedom of expression, sexual and reproductive rights, prisoners’ rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQI+ rights, and children’s rights. The sessions will be publicly accessible via livestream. 

Our advocates will accompany three delegations of activists experiencing firsthand the effects of the U.S. government’s disregard for civil and political rights. With partners, we also submitted reports to support the delegations and three additional reports. Taken together, these so-called shadow reports – on death-by-incarceration sentences, the continued colonization of U.S. territories, the metastasizing “war on terror” that is suppressing domestic social movements, the discriminatory denial of clean water to Black communities, the ongoing detention of Muslim men in Guantanamo, and the mistreatment of Black migrants – offer a damning indictment of the U.S. government’s failure to uphold its human rights obligations. 

One delegation, on death by incarceration, includes people from California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and New York who were formerly sentenced to life in prison and family members of people currently serving such sentences. They will seek to draw attention to the inherent cruelty and racism of what they – and the growing movement they represent – refer to as death by incarceration. A U.N mechanism on racial justice in law enforcement recently denounced death–by-incarceration sentences, using that term, and emphasizing that the sentence violates international human rights standards protecting life and liberty, and against torture

Said Susan Bustamante, an activist with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and Drop LWOP, “As women formerly sentenced to death by incarceration, we are demanding an end to extreme sentences like life without parole (LWOP) so commonly imposed by the United States. Since 2008, the number of women serving death by incarceration has grown an alarming 43 percent. The majority of us are women of color and survivors of abuse, We want international eyes on this injustice, and international pressure on the U.S. to abolish these inhumane sentences.”

Colonialism of U.S. territories is the focus of another delegation, which includes Indigenous activists from Puerto Rico and Guam, who are demanding that the U.S. government comply with its human rights obligations and allow self-determination of their islands. Significantly, this will be the first review where the Committee is asked to consider the case of Guam. 

Said Monaeka Toves Flores, Core Organizer and Director, Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, “It is utterly impossible to overstate the devastating impacts we are forced to endure because of U.S. colonization and militarization and the unjust policies and actions which fail to protect us from avoidable harm and prove to obstruct our political, economic, environmental, spiritual, and cultural sovereignty. As we continue to protest relentless military destruction, we are also responding to the climate crisis only exacerbated by these very actions. In our struggle to recover from Super Typhoon Mawar in May 2023, we also witnessed the increased vulnerability of our sole-source aquifer and native forests, and a severe strain on needed resources firmly gripped by the demand for military base construction. Uninterrupted colonization in the territories is unquestionably interconnected with the violent oppression and erasure of Black and Indigenous people everywhere, ultimately impacting our rights to life, health, and food, as well as our cultural survivorship.”

The last delegation, on the metastasizing of the “war on terror,” includes activists from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Stop Cop City. In Geneva, they will spotlight how state and private actors have weaponized the antiterrorism framework to stifle dissent, targeting, among others, the racial justice, environmental justice, and Palestinian solidarity movements.  

Said Ahmad Abuznaid, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, “In just the last few days, we’ve witnessed officials at every level of U.S. government move with astounding speed to wield the terrorism framework against protesters in solidarity with the Palestinian people, who are facing unimaginable human suffering, collective punishment, and Israeli war crimes. We know that this is a ploy to lay the groundwork for the suspension of our rights, for our silencing. We are in Geneva to challenge the state’s tired tactic of suppressing our rights to protest, to resist an intolerable status quo, and to fight for a different world.” 

Following the review, the United Nations will release a formal report with concluding observations and recommendations for U.S officials.

For more information on the Center for Constitutional Rights’ delegations and shadow reports, see here

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

October 12, 2023