Starting Monday, the United States' human rights record will be subject to international scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Council. It may just be the perfect catalyst for the Obama administration to make good on past and present wrongs that should never be associated with a liberal democracy predicated on respect for human rights.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is part of a regular examination of the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member countries and will be the second review of its kind for the U.S. since 2010. The review comes at a critical time when the U.S. human rights record has been criticized for falling short of meeting international human rights standards. From biased policing and excessive use of force by law enforcement to the expansion of migrant family detention and from the lack of accountability for the CIA torture program to the use of armed drones abroad, the U.S. has a lot to answer for.
But the U.S. review presents an opportunity for President Obama to shape his human rights legacy. He not only has the chance to continue to hold state and local governments in the U.S. accountable for abusive and biased policing practices, but he can also establish a positive policy at the federal level such as ending racial and ethnic profiling and holding federal agencies responsible for unlawful and discriminatory practices, such as the border killings and surveillance of Muslim communities.
The world will be asking hard questions of a country that considers itself a human rights champion, and, as the UPR represents the final human rights review of the Obama administration, it will be expecting meaningful answers and a concrete plan of action, including in the area of economic justice, which the U.S. submission to the Human Rights Council regrettably referred to as social and economic "measures" rather than the universally accepted framework and terminology of "rights."