United Nations Human Rights Council Recommends the United States Establish a National Human Rights Body

UNBy Andrew Park
May 2015

On May 15, 2015, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations issued a draft report with a series of recommendations to the United States government to rectify human rights violations. Every four years, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) reviews the human rights record of each country. The review of the U.S. began in fall 2014 and involved many months of data collection by the U.N. and testimony by hundreds of participants. In early May, the U.S. sent a delegation of 22 high level officials to the U.N. for formal review session. This draft report is a result of that session.

In fall 2014, the Williams Institute provided testimony to the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the embassies of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, Japan, Republic of Korea, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. In its testimony, the Williams Institute provided a summary of research on legal and economic disparities faced by LGBT Americans, as well as a recommendations of how the U.S. could achieve better compliance with international human rights law. In particular, the Williams Institute concluded that international standards require legal prohibition of discrimination, more efforts to respond to hate crimes and economic disparities, and the establishment of an agency in the United States to monitor and investigate human rights violations.

As part of this process, in February 2015, the Office of the United National High Commission for Human Rights issued its own set of reports for members of the UNHRC. The High Commissioner’s report cited the Williams Institute’s analysis regarding anti-discrimination laws, hate-crimes, and recognition of same-sex relationships.

In the draft final report of the UNHRC issued on May 15, the recommendations included a wide range of issues, including a strong focus on concerns of racial discrimination, police misconduct, electronic surveillance, and treatment of the homeless. Several countries recommended that the U.S. heighten efforts to respond to discrimination of LGBT people. One recommendation asked the U.S. to ensure that religious exemptions are regulated to protect the human rights of LGBT people.

Twenty-two countries recommended that the U.S. establish an independent federal agency to monitor and investigate human rights violations. In its testimony, the Williams Institute concluded that such an agency was required by the “Paris Principles,” a specific set of international rules concerning the enforcement of human rights standards. Such an agency would have independent authority to investigate human rights claims and to collect data about disparities faced by the LGBT population in the workplace, in schools, in healthcare settings, among others. Roughly 100 countries have such an agency, as recognized by the U.N. The U.S. does not.

Andrew Park, Director of International Program, also chaired the LGBT Task Force of the U.S. Human Right Network, which coordinated the participation of many of the organizations providing testimony to the U.N.

For the UNHRC’s draft final report, click here.