In the last 15 years, MCLI has made major efforts in pioneering new paths for defending human rights – using the Offices of Inspector General of the different federal departments and working to enforce international human rights law domestically. These paths are powerful alternatives to today’s largely conservative justice system. In recent years, actions by the Offices of Inspector General were responsible for exposing torture at Abu Ghraib and bringing national attention and government accountability to health problems of 9-11 rescue workers. The international human rights treaties are largely ignored by U.S. governmental actors, but hold tremendous potential that should not be ignored. MCLI pioneered a growing movement to implement the treaties domestically and is currently approaching the issue at the local level.
1995 – The First Report
After the U.S. Senate ratified three signed international human rights treaties into law in the early 1990’s, MCLI began blazing the path for enforcing those treaties. The three treaties are: Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture. As a step in enforcement, MCLI filed its first international report on the domestic enforcement of the treaties in 1995 to the UN Human Rights Committee. Reports have been filed by MCLI for every subsequent session on treaty compliance, garnering international attention to domestic human rights abuses which lawyers and activists can use to bolster their cases.
2001 – After 9-11
MCLI put out press releases urging the U.S. to follow international law in response to the attacks on 9-11. A year after the PATRIOT-ACT passed, MCLI quickly published How To Use ‘New’ Civil Rights Law After 9-11 with excerpts from useful court opinions, ordinances, and complaints, and the complete texts of all relevant constitutional articles, charters, treaties and agreements. It has a useful index. The book was also used as a text for a CLE in Albuquerque.
A delegation of 12 represented MCLI at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in August 2001 and brought a report back to the National Lawyers Guild Convention emphasizing the increasing importance of facing, and fighting against, the racism that would surround the so-called “war on terrorism” in the Middle East.
2004 – Human Rights Reporting
MCLI prepared a comprehensive report to the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) called Challenging Human Rights Violations Since 9/11, documenting the human rights abuses of the U.S. government under the guise of fighting the “war on terror.” In 2005, the Berkeley City Council submitted the report to the U.S. Department of State, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the HRC. The report received an award from the Human Rights Network in 2008 for the “Best book in the Field of Human Rights.”
In 2007, MCLI partnered with the Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission and convinced the city of Berkeley to become the first city in the United States to file the required reports on implementation of the treaties to the U.N. Berkeley filed a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in February 2008. Berkeley modeled for the rest of the country a process that brings local governmental awareness of U.S. obligations to human rights standards. We worked with the Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission to create a template for reporting at the local level. The template and MCLI’s model reporting resolution are key tools in the campaign for local reporting. Since the federal government refuses to acknowledge the Supremacy Clause as it relates to the ratified treaties, MCLI is working to convince cities, counties and states to comply with the treaties.
In 2009, MCLI sent two representatives to Geneva to the Durban Two: Second (Review) UN Conference Against Racism, who presented a meaningful report on continuing problems of racism in the U.S.
- MCLI Shadow Report to HRC re ICCPR 1995 [PDF]
- MCLI Shadow Report to HRC re: ICCPR 2005
- MCLI Shadow Report re CAT 1999 [PDF]
- MCLI Shadow Report re CERD 2000 [PDF]
- MCLI Shadow Report re CERD 2008 [PDF]