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U.S. submits its human rights record for U.N. review

GENEVA — The United States is submitting its human rights record to the scrutiny of other nations — both allies and adversaries — for the first time, as President Barack Obama's administration opens itself up to a committee shunned by his predecessor.

At the three-hour United Nations review Friday, the U.S. delegation is expected to face questions about the use of torture in the war on terror, not dismantling the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the death penalty, immigration policy, the treatment of racial minorities and questions of religious freedom.

The 30-strong delegation, headed by three top State Department officials with representatives from many departments, including Justice, Defense and Homeland Security, arrives in Geneva with a 20-page report compiled with the input of civic and social organizations.

For most observers, the high level of U.S. engagement alone is a milestone. The Bush administration shunned the U.N. Human Rights Council, which runs the so-called Universal Public Reviews, because of the participation of repressive states and its constant criticism of Israel.

Some of the most vocal critics of the review process have come from the U.S. Congress, and a landslide by U.N.-skeptical Republicans in Tuesday's election could leave the United States even less receptive.

The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission in 2006, and the Obama administration joined last year — although as a U.N. member it would have been required to participate in the peer review in any case. The council has no enforcement powers but is supposed to act as the world's moral conscience on human rights.

U.S. officials say they do not mind U.N. scrutiny.

"We will get some interesting questions. We will get some outrageous questions. The United State is used to public scrutiny," said Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council.

U.S. submits its human rights record for U.N. review 11/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:06pm]
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