UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 2015/2016
There was no accountability nor remedy for crimes under international law committed in the secret detention programme operated by the CIA. Scores of detainees remained in indefinite military detention at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, while military trial proceedings continued in a handful of cases. Concern about the use of isolation in state and federal prisons and the use of force in policing continued. Twenty-seven men and one woman were executed during the year.
In March, September and November respectively, the USA provided its one-year follow-up responses to the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), the CERD Committee and the UN Committee against Torture on their 2014 priority recommendations after scrutiny of the country’s compliance with the ICCPR, the CERD and the UN Convention against Torture.
In May, the USA’s human rights record was examined under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. In September, the USA accepted about three-quarters of the 343 recommendations made under the UPR process. As in 2011, the USA said it supported calls for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and CEDAW, and for accountability for torture. None had been implemented by the end of the year.
At the end of the year, 107 men were held at Guantánamo. The majority were held without charge or trial. About half had been approved for transfer for at least five years. Twenty-one detainees were transferred out of the base during the year to Estonia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the UK.
Excessive use of force
At least 43 people across 25 states died after police used Tasers on them, bringing the total number of Taser-related deaths since 2001 to at least 670. Most of the victims were not armed and did not appear to pose a threat of death or serious injury when the Taser was deployed.
Torture and other ill-treatment
The City of Chicago, Illinois, passed an ordinance to provide reparations to over 100 survivors of torture committed by members of the Chicago Police Department from 1972 to 1991. The ordinance includes a US$5.5 million fund for survivors, a formal apology from the Chicago City Council, free college education for survivors and their families, an educational component in Chicago Public Schools on the history of torture by the Chicago Police Department, a public memorial to torture survivors and a counselling centre for torture survivors.
More than 35,000 unaccompanied children and 34,000 families were apprehended crossing the southern border during the year, many fleeing violence and insecurity in Mexico and Central America. Families were detained for months while pursuing claims to remain in the USA; many were held in facilities without proper access to medical care, sanitary food and water and legal counsel. Transgender individuals were routinely detained according to their gender at birth, leaving them susceptible to abuse, or held in solitary confinement and without access to hormone therapy.
Over 80,000 prisoners at any given time were held in conditions of physical and social deprivation in federal and state prisons throughout the country.
In September, a landmark settlement to a class action lawsuit, Ashker v. Brown, virtually eliminated prolonged and indefinite isolation in California’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). Under the terms of the settlement, the overwhelming majority of prisoners held in SHUs were due to be released to general prison population units. In recognition of the harmful effects of long-term solitary confinement, prisoners who have been held for over 10 years in SHUs will be immediately transferred to a Restricted Custody General Population Unit, to begin a two-year programme to reintegrate them into the general prison population.
Twenty-seven men and one woman were executed in six states, bringing to 1,422 the total number of executions since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976. This was the lowest number of executions in a year since 1991. Approximately 50 new death sentences were passed. Almost 3,000 people remained on death row at the end of the year.