United Nations and Human Rights Activists Denounce U.S. Suppression of Peaceful Protest

NEW YORK, OCTOBER 19, 2023 – Referring to evidence presented by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and other civil society organizations, the United Nations recently expressed shock at the United States’ suppression of peaceful protest during a formal review held on October 17-18 in Geneva.

During the two-day event, the UN Human Rights Committee reviewed the abysmal conditions of confinement for over 35,000 asylum seekers and immigrants currently held in U.S. civil detention, noting reports of retaliatory solitary confinement for immigrants in detention who speak out about inadequate medical care, mistreatment and abuse, targeted sexual violence, and exposure to extreme temperatures. The Committee also took U.S. officials to task on overbroad anti-protest laws that limit and criminalize lawful protest, as well as excessive use of force by law enforcement during lawful protests such as the Movement to Stop Cop City in Atlanta, GA.

The review focused on U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of only three core international human rights treaties that the United States has ratified. U.S. delegates, including representatives from the Department of State, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security, traveled to Geneva to participate as the UN investigated a broad range of issues covered under the ICCPR.

Human rights groups present at the review blasted the United States’ refusal to meaningfully participate in the proceedings, engaging in a silent protest on the final day by turning their backs on U.S. Ambassador Michèle Taylor during her concluding remarks.

“This hearing marked the United States’ first ICCPR review in nine years, and U.S. officials wasted the opportunity for meaningful collaboration with civil society in favor of stock answers and insincere speeches,” said Anthony Enriquez, VP of U.S. Advocacy and Litigation at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, who participated in the review alongside grassroots partners Haitian Bridge Alliance and Community Movement Builders. “From criminalizing protesters to brutally retaliating against detained immigrants, the United States is punishing individuals for exercising their fundamental human right to speak out against injustice. The U.N. and international community recognize these abuses for what they are: violations of legal obligations to uphold our rights. The U.S. refuses to accept responsibility for its actions, so it’s up to all of us to hold it accountable.”

In the lead up to the review, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights submitted reports and briefings to the UN that highlighted serious abuses of power within the U.S. immigration system and at the state and local policing level, including cruel and degrading treatment in immigration detention and violent suppression of Cop City protesters.

The United Nations will release its concluding observations of the review in early November, summarizing its findings and issuing recommendations to U.S. officials on how to remedy ongoing human rights violations.

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues— championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook: @RFKHumanRights