U.N. Criticizes U.S. on Torture and Array of Human Rights Issues

The United Nations Committee Against Torture released a report Friday that deeply criticized the U.S. for its responses and investigations — or lack thereof — into counter-terrorism methods, police brutality, immigration policies, sexual assault in the military and other "subjects of concern."

The report's findings are the "concluding observations" of hearings during the "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," which took place in Geneva, starting in early November. U.S. Department of State Acting Legal Adviser Mary E. McLeod and U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council Keith Harper participated in the hearings on Nov. 13-14. The parents of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in August, testified during the hearings.

The report chastised the Obama administration for failing to disclose information on CIA practices following Sept. 11, which "involved numerous human rights violations, including torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism-related crimes." The report also urged the Obama administration to stop "indefinite detention without charge or trial" for inmates at Guantanamo Bay detention facilities. The report also express concern over immigration detention and "removal procedures" of immigrants that fail to consider whether they are in need of asylum.

Regarding a topic that has been on the country's mind in the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Celveland, Ohio, the United Nations report said the U.S. should do more on the federal level to make sure police found to have used excessive force be prosecuted. The report also said the committee was concerned about numerous reports of police profiling of ethnic minorities, immigrants and LGBT individuals.

The report specifically reprimanded the Department of Defense for failing to wholly address and prevent sexual assault of men and women in the armed forces.

Responding to the report, Ned Price, a spokesman for Obama's National Security Council, said: "We are reviewing the Committee's concluding observations. In our presentation before the Committee earlier this month, U.S. officials reaffirmed our deep and abiding commitment to the obligations enshrined in the Convention Against Torture, to which we are a party, and engaged in a robust dialogue with the Committee. We will continue to work with our partners toward the achievement of the Convention's ultimate objective: a world without torture."

During the hearings, Department of State Acting Legal Adviser McLeod said, "in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our own values."

Representative to the Human Rights Council Harper said the council sees "our dialogue with the U.N. human rights treaty bodies as a part of a valuable process to push all nations, including ours, to do better."

American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar said in a statement Friday that U.S. officials' words were worthless unless changes were made.

"The Obama administration needs to match its rhetoric with actions by supporting full accountability for torture," Dakwar said.

Image: Activists hold hands during a silent protest at a hearing of the United States at the Committee against Torture at the United Nations in Geneva
Activists hold hands during a silent protest at a hearing of the United States at the Committee against Torture at the United Nations in Geneva November 13, 2014. The activists wore t-shirts with the slogan: "The Chicago Police Dept killed Dominique Franklin", referring to the case where Franklin, 23, died in May 2014, two weeks after the police used a Taser on him while arresting him for retail theft, according to local media. DENIS BALIBOUSE / Reuters


— with Kristen Welker