August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, November 15, 2010

Western Shoshone Report from US Periodic Review: Optimism and Concern

UN Human Rights Council Recommends the United States Address Indigenous Rights
By Western Shoshone Defense Project
Censored News
November 11, 2010
CRESCENT VALLEY, Nevada -- On November 9 the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a draft report on the United States’ human rights record as part of the historic first review of the US under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The HRC incorporated multiple recommendations that the US address indigenous rights.
As part of this review process, the Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP) filed joint stakeholder submissions in April 2010 with the assistance of the University of Arizona Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program (IPLP).
Western Shoshone delegates Larson Bill and Rick Spilsbury and IPLP Staff Attorney Seánna Howard travelled to Geneva last week to participate in the review process.
Seánna Howard stated, "The Western Shoshone were in Geneva once again to speak to the United States’ ongoing failure to respect their rights to their lands and resources. The Shoshone have a persistent presence at the United Nations and their concerns are well known and respected among the international community.
On this occasion, Shoshone representatives had an opportunity to engage in a face-to-face dialogue with the State, which hopefully will result in the US making some effort to recognize and protect their human rights."
Indigenous issues were successfully raised during the UPR process. On November 5, high-level officials from the US responded to questions and recommendations put forth by 57 countries. Significantly, 17 of these countries specifically raised indigenous issues, including adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, implementation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommendations, and rights to participation and consultation regarding activities affecting their lands. Additionally, dozens of countries urged the US to establish a National Human Rights Commission, something the WSDP has recommended in order to comprehensively address indigenous rights.
Delegates appreciated the opportunity to engage the US on indigenous issues. As delegate Rick Spilsbury stated, “the periodic external review of a nation’s human rights record is necessary to get a more realistic picture of that nation’s performance. The United States has been a beacon of human rights in some ways, but our record has been far from stellar. The Universal Periodic Review is the closest thing we have to a mirror to see our true selves.”
Delegates also attended a US town hall meeting held in Geneva and a sit-down with Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk.
Delegate Larson Bill spoke positively of WSDP participation, saying, "Overall, the Shoshone issue was received amongst the United States and all attendees globally." He stated, "The UPR process seems to be a good concept … [and] could turn into a process for NGOs to present ongoing issues, old and new. I believe that this could be a very productive step towards adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples...."
However, US responses to indigenous concerns focused almost exclusively on addressing disparities in housing, education, health, and other socioeconomic indicators. Officials failed to adequately address underlying issues concerning land title and resource extraction. Despite several recommendations, the US refused to address environmental destruction as a human rights issue, leaving Western Shoshone concerns about Nevada water resources and the toxic effects of gold mining unaddressed. The Western Shoshone will continue to engage the US in an effort to seek implementation of the Human Rights Council’s recommendations.
Contacts: Larson Bill, Western Shoshone Defense Project, 775-744-2565/775-397-6726; Seánna Howard, University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, 520-626-8223

No comments: