Article by Kali Akuno.
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) urges the US to apply international human rights standards to protect and ensure the rights of political prisoners currently incarcerated within its own prison system.
NCBL presented the plight of political prisoners in the United States to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) as part of a Universal Periodic Review on November 5, 2010.
The Council, created by the UN General Assembly in 2006, addresses international human rights violations and makes recommendations to end such violations.
In August 2010, prior to the November meeting, the US government had submitted a report to the HRC, in which it stated its efforts to strengthen human rights commitments and comply with international human rights standards.
But that report had failed to mention the plights of political prisoners, who have languished in US prisons for decades.
In a compilation of civil society reports submitted to the HRC in October 2010, the US already had been urged to free its political prisoners.
At the November 2010 meeting, the US appeared before the HRC and engaged in an interactive dialogue with other HRC member states in a review of the United States’ human rights compliance.
Members raised the issue of political prisoners during this interactive review, and as a result of the review, the HRC published 228 recommendations, including actions concerning political prisoners, for the US government to take in order to improve the status of human rights.
On November 9, 2010, the US published a response to the HRC’s recommendation, in which it again neglected to address the human rights violations committed by its FBI, which had resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of dozens of African-American political activists and others during the 1960s.
Though the United States consistently denies the existence of political prisoners, these activists—individuals who dared to challenge the status quo of America’s harsh treatment of black people—were ensnared by the nation’s own repressive Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).
Many were members of organizations such as the Black Panther Party and were not content to remain silent in a system of de facto slavery.
Instead, they demanded quality education, health care and an end to rampant police violence against black people.
The Black Panthers and groups like them were targets of government surveillance under COINTELPRO, and members were harassed, beaten, falsely arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to unreasonably lengthy prison terms in a system bloated with contempt for them and their righteous causes.