Dozens of activists gathered outside the independent Human Rights Committee on Wednesday to protest against the United States’ insufficient efforts to address human rights issues. The protest coincided with a speech delivered by US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Michele Taylor, defending the country’s human rights record. The Associated Press reported that around 140 protesters from various locations, including Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Guam, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to express their discontent with Taylor’s speech. As Taylor began her address, the activists positioned themselves throughout the Human Rights Council chamber and stood up, turning their backs on the US ambassador.
Taylor’s speech took place during the US’ first scheduled human rights record review in nine years. The Human Rights Committee evaluated the country’s actions in addressing human rights issues and upholding its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
During her speech, Taylor emphasized Washington’s dedication to the treaty, describing it as “a moral imperative at the very heart of our democracy.” She further claimed that the US “leads by example through our transparency, our openness, and our humble approach to our own human rights challenges.” Taylor acknowledged that the topics discussed could be painful but assured that the US is committed to meeting its obligations and pledged to do more.
However, representatives from the US who attended the event to share their personal experiences of pain and trauma criticized the delegation’s responses to questions from the Human Rights Committee. Jamil Dakwar, the human rights program director at the American Civil Liberties Union, remarked, “At times it seemed that AI-generated responses would have been more qualitative.” Alliance San Diego Executive Director Andrea Guerrero added, “We all feel deceived by a government that has said it is going to do better but has simply repeated language from binders and websites without meaningfully engaging with the topics we had shared with them.” She emphasized that actions speak louder than words, which is why they turned their backs during Taylor’s speech.
The UN Human Rights Committee regularly reviews the adherence to human rights by countries that have ratified the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including Russia. The treaty has been ratified by 173 states globally.
The protest and Taylor’s speech highlight the ongoing concern among activists and human rights advocates regarding the US’ commitment to addressing human rights issues. The protesters traveled from various locations to voice their dissatisfaction and demand meaningful action from the US government. While Taylor defended the country’s human rights record, the protesters argued that actions speak louder than words and that more needs to be done to fulfill the US’ obligations under international human rights treaties. The review conducted by the Human Rights Committee serves as an important mechanism to hold countries accountable for their human rights practices, and the attention drawn to this issue by the protest underscores the significance of ongoing scrutiny and engagement in this area.