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Coalition Letter to Susan Rice on Establishment of Domestic Human Rights Institution

December 16, 2022

The Advocates, alongside other human rights organizations, have signed onto a letter to Ambassador Susan Rice calling for the launch of a presidential commission to study the establishment of an American National Human Rights Institution. The contents of the letter can be read below:

Last October, President Biden proclaimed that the United States must demonstrate that its "commitment to human rights begins at home." We, the undersigned, strongly support that sentiment and believe that this principle-that human rights begin at home-should be the basis for a bold approach to ensuring that everyone in the United States enjoys the rights and freedoms guaranteed by international human rights law. 

The United States has been a historic leader in the global effort to establish universal 
standards of human rights protection, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. At the same time, while state and local authorities have increasingly looked to human rights standards to improve the lives of people, the federal government has not comprehensively integrated the United States' human rights obligations into domestic law and policy and has resisted efforts to create domestic human rights monitoring, enforcement, and accountability mechanisms. Thus, as we mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration seventy-four years ago this month, we urge the Biden administration to make good on the President's words by reinvigorating that leadership and starting the process of establishing a National Human Rights Institution ("NHRI").

In particular, we propose that the Biden Administration establish a national committee of 
experts to study the creation of an American NHRI, with robust civil society participation, and make recommendations within a year of its establishment.

Our proposal is rooted in a widespread global practice of human rights compliance. Democracies around the world, including most of the United States' closest allies and partners, have 
established national institutions that monitor and promote the implementation of their international human rights obligations. Some do so by giving individuals the right to bring claims that may be resolved by the NHRI. Some provide a public forum for the investigation of alleged violations and a platform for recommendations to improve human rights compliance. Still others create mechanisms to advise and inform the legislative, judicial, and executive branches on human rights standards and to provide broad education to their people. And in some cases, NHRIs provide another avenue for victims to seek investigation and adjudication of alleged human rights violations and obtain redress.

Whatever functions or model may be appropriate for the United States, an American NHRI could strengthen our ability to bring human rights home and significantly improve 
domestic implementation of the United States’ international human rights commitments and obligations including under the Universal Declaration and ratified treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

An American effort to establish an NHRI could also reinforce the priorities President Biden has set out for the Summit for Democracy and in the Administration’s National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, demonstrating that what the United States asks of others is what we also demand of ourselves. We were heartened that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in its Concluding Observations following the United States review earlier this year, welcomed the U.S. delegation’s indication that it had taken under advisement the recommendations favoring the creation of an NHRI.

In keeping with the U.S. government's stated commitment to evaluate human rights recommendations, we urge the Biden administration to establish a presidential commission to thoroughly explore the creation of an NHRI in the United States. We stand ready to support you in your efforts to launch such a process and take the first steps toward bringing human rights home.

The original letter and full list of signees can be read here.