Country Concerned statement in response to
Special Rapporteur Kiai’s Country Report on the United States
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
As Delivered by Jason Mack
Thank you Mr. Vice President. The United States thanks Maina Kiai for his service and his work on diverse topics. We were pleased to host Mr. Kiai and appreciate the opportunity to respond to different aspects of his report on the United States. The report raises some concerns regarding international law. It asserts U.S. law permitting certain time, place, and manner restrictions falls short of international law standards and that international law favors a notification rather than permission system. These assertions are not based on ICCPR obligations. The few sources cited for them are flawed; for example, one cites best practices rather than obligations. Complete prohibition of assembly at certain places also does not constitute a violation of international law because some areas pose safety or national security concerns that are not possible to mitigate, as recognized in Article 21 of the ICCPR. Nor does international law require that disruption of ordinary life must be tolerated, a position that the Special Rapporteur bases on European human rights sources that are not globally relevant. The report also has problematic assertions that States must remedy non-State Party actions that affect human rights.
We provided over 17 pages of comments addressing many inaccuracies regarding U.S. laws, particularly laws on labor and counterterrorism. The U.S. Government’s Strategic Implementation Plan to counter violent extremism underscores that U.S. policy is not to stigmatize specific groups, but rather to invest in objective, independent research and to promote transparency in its countering violent extremism work. U.S. terrorism sanctions are not based on war powers, but on Congressional authority to respond to emergencies. U.S. sanctions designations are fair and transparent. The government must have a reasonable basis, have substantial evidence, and its designations may be challenged immediately either administratively or in federal courts and the government must demonstrate that sanctions criteria are met. We also believe that the report’s criticisms regarding sanctions against charity groups are incorrect and unwarranted. The U.S. government has engaged in sustained, direct outreach with those groups, recognizes the positive role that humanitarian and charitable organizations play, and provides multiple mechanisms for those organizations to seek clarification and guidance from the government.
Migrant workers are entitled to significant protections under U.S. law, including whistleblower protections for H-1B visa holders and regulations that prohibit recruitment fees. Migrant workers’ labor rights are respected, regardless of their immigration status. The Special Rapporteur’s concern that visas for trafficking victims are difficult to obtain and cover a small proportion of workers overlooked the availability of U-visas for victims of various criminal activities, including trafficking, involuntary servitude, fraud in foreign labor contracting, false imprisonment, and obstruction of justice, and that are helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the crime. A number of U.S. agencies can serve as certifying agencies for this visa, and the United States has reached the 10,000 annual cap on U-visas for several years, indicating the program is used frequently.
We would also like to respond to the Special rapporteur’s statement that he was disappointed to learn that the Attorney General had ordered a review of all consent decrees, which Mr. Kiai mischaracterized as prioritizing respect for law enforcement over accountability for abuses. Nothing in the Department of Justice’s review states that respect for law enforcement is prioritized over accountability. One of our key principles is that “local law enforcement must protect and respect the civil rights of all members of the public.”
We appreciate that Special Rapporteurs provide context for a country report; we encourage such scene setting to be kept within the parameters of the mandate.
We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report and recommendations and look forward to engaging with the new rapporteur, Ms. Ciampi, as she assumes her position.
Thank you Mr. Vice President.