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UN human rights report criticizes US on surveillance, drone use, and torture

UN human rights report criticizes US on surveillance, drone use, and torture

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The United Nations Human Rights Committee has issued a report critical of the United States' stance and history on a wide range of issues, including surveillance, drone use, and torture. The report, one in an infrequently issued series by the committee, expressed concern over the NSA's bulk collection of telephone records as well as the programs PRISM and UPSTREAM, which collect internet communications directly from companies and through the fiber-optic cables used to carry internet traffic, respectively. It also criticized the United States' use of a secret court to handle surveillance matters, "thus not allowing affected persons to know the law with sufficient precision," it writes.

Gun violence, racial profiling, and the death penalty are also points of issue

The report is also critical of the United States' use of drones for targeted killing in counter-terrorism operations. In particular, the committee calls out "the lack of transparency regarding the criteria for drone strikes, including the legal justification for specific attacks, and the lack of accountability for the loss of life resulting from such attacks." It also notes that the United States has poorly defined its armed conflicts and drawn broad borders around the areas that it's in conflict with.

The committee criticized the United States' response to allegations of unlawful killings and torture too, taking particular issue with "the limited number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions" that they resulted in. It also took issue with the United States' failure to close Guantanamo Bay, as well as the way that it's handled the prisoners who remain there. "[The US] should end the system of administrative detention without charge or trial," the committee writes.

It report also focuses on the United States' use of the death penalty at a federal and state level, noting that there are racial disparities in how it's been imposed. The report also brings up the recent issues with the use of untested drugs during executions and the refusal to disclose information about those drugs — a practice that's increasingly been in contention.

The human rights report also touches on over a dozen other issues, including racial disparities in the US justice system, racial profiling, gun violence, and wrongful sentencing. The committee lays out corrective steps for the US to take in response to all of its concerns — generally, ending the practice, better protecting rights, or falling in line with its obligations to UN commitments — though there's little holding the US to following these. The committee has asked the United States to respond with its progress on these matters in its next report, due five years from now on March 28, 2019.