Students Staff

28 March 2014

Essex professor calls on US to improve human rights

A UN committee chaired by University of Essex Professor Sir Nigel Rodley has criticised the US for its human rights record.

In its latest assessment of how the US is complying with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee identifies a list of concerns including torture, drone strikes, the failure to close Guantánamo Bay, and the mass collection of personal data.

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair of the UN Human Rights Committee

Despite greater cooperation from the US delegation than has previously been seen, Sir Nigel expressed concern that the US has failed to hold to account those responsible for alleged human rights offences.

He said: “The US delegation was far less confrontational than it had been last time we saw them in 2006, when they were gung-ho in defending the indefensible. And, indeed, the delegation was no longer having to defend torturous interrogation techniques and extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists to countries where they faced torture.

“Nor were we in disagreement on the need to close the Guantanamo detention facility and the associated military commissions” he added.

However, Sir Nigel said: “I just wish I could be hopeful that those who planned, justified and applied the techniques and renditions would have to face justice and their victims given access to their day in court.'

The report has highlighted concerns over the mass surveillance exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden and the impact on the right to privacy; the country’s failure to prosecute senior military officials and private contractors involved in torture and targeted killings; and the investigations into the CIA’s rendition programme which were closed in 2012 and the details of which have remained secret.

The committee also drew attention to Barack Obama’s failure to close Guantánamo Bay, the use of the death penalty in 16 states and US claims that drone strikes - which have resulted in the deaths of civilians – are an act of self-defence.

Sir Nigel is Chair of the University of Essex Human Rights Centre and a member of the School of Law.


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