Testimony Targets Torture

The U.S. government’s failure to fulfill its obligations under human rights treaties “has a particularly profound effect on certain groups of people,” especially children, immigrants, detainees and minorities, NASW said in testimony for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law.

NASW’s remarks, prepared by the association’s Division for Human Rights and International Affairs, were submitted for the subcommittee’s December hearing titled “The Law of the Land: U.S. Implementation of Human Rights Treaties.” It was the first-ever congressional hearing on U.S. compliance with its human rights treaty obligations, according to Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

“We commend the U.S. government’s implementation of human rights treaties, yet gaps remain,” NASW said.

Specifically, NASW called on the U.S. government to eliminate the practice of torture. “The United States must not condone or permit torture, nor deny due process to victims,” the testimony said. “The international conventions against torture cannot be ignored without further damage to the international standing of the United States.”

NASW also called on lawmakers to enact comprehensive immigration reform that:

  • Ends the use of arbitrary arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants;
  • Ensures fair treatment and due process in accordance with international human rights for all asylum-seekers and immigration detainees;
  • Ensures adequate conditions of care for unaccompanied immigrant children (inclusive of health care and education) in the custody of the U.S. government; and
  • Addresses the root causes and conditions that force people to flee their home countries.

In its testimony, the association also said the U.S. needs to do more to combat all forms of discrimination. NASW challenged lawmakers to:

  • Implement policy and legislation that acknowledges, maintains or enhances the sovereign rights and religious freedom of indigenous populations;
  • Address practices of discrimination and exclusion based on sexual orientation; address policies and practices that allow racial profiling as an acceptable component to homeland security;
  • Address policies and practices that have led to the nation having the highest incarceration rate in the world, with disproportionate incarceration rates of people of color and those who are poor; and
  • Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

And finally, NASW said more needs to be done to promote services to child victims of human rights violations. It encouraged the U.S. government to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, insisting that support for the two optional protocols to the CRC is not enough.

“Child soldiers, child prostitution and trafficking are only a few of the many violations of children’s human rights that need to be fully recognized and addressed by the U.S.,” the testimony said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President and CEO Wade Henderson and Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino testified at the Dec. 16 hearing.

To read NASW’s testimony in its entirety, go to: Testimony of the National Association of Social Workers on U.S. Implementation of Human Rights Treaties {}