United States: Implement UPR recommendations to establish national human rights institution and review national security laws


The United States of America (US) was reviewed last week on Monday, 11 May for the second time, as part of the 22nd session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The United States of America (US) was reviewed last week on Monday, 11 May for the second time, as part of the 22nd session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Late last year, ISHR prepared a Briefing Paper on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the US to assist States and other stakeholders to formulate questions and recommendations regarding the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) during the US’ second UPR. In the briefing paper, ISHR called on the US Congress to reform national security legislation and ensure accountability surrounding the unwarranted surveillance of human rights defenders and journalists; enact specific legislation that protects HRDs from reprisals and intimidation; and to build and endorse human rights mechanisms necessary for consistent and effective oversight of human rights in the US. Encouragingly, many of these recommendations were taken up by States in last week’s review.

While no specific mention of HRD protection was made during the review, a number of recommendations addressed the institutional frameworks within which HRDs operate.

States consistently urged the US to review national security laws to better protect the privacy rights of citizens and foreign nationals, particularly when intercepting and storing digital communications. Switzerland specifically called on the US to ensure oversight of all branches of government engaged in national surveillance to ensure the responsible application of security legislation. Laws that lead to self-censorship, from fear of indiscriminate surveillance for example, are a hindrance to the legitimate work of HRDs in the US and elsewhere, and therefore ISHR strongly supports these recommendations.

ISHR also supports the recommendations of a diverse group of more than 15 countries, including Morocco, Panama, Poland, the Republic of Korea and Senegal, that the US establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in accordance with the Paris Principles. An effective and credible NHRI would better ensure the consistent application of international human rights standards across the country, protecting civil society space. A robust NHRI would be especially useful to monitor and address the alleged excessive use of force by police officers in the US, particularly toward black citizens – during protests or daily activity – a concern shared by many States during the review.

ISHR also supports recommendations:

  • for the US to issue a standing invitation to all Special Procedures, which would help the close monitoring, improvement, and strengthening of human rights defender freedoms (recommendation by Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia and Ghana);
  • that the US ratify optional protocols to international treaties to allow civil society to make individual complaints for alleged human rights violations (recommendation by Germany).

348 recommendations were made to the US in total, all of which were deferred for consideration until, at the latest, the 29th Human Rights Council regular session in September/October 2015.

ISHR encourages the US to continue to consult closely with civil society on the effective implementation of UPR recommendations relating to HRDs and civil society, as it committed to do in its first UPR cycle. 


  • North America
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • United Nations
  • Universal Periodic Review
  • National Human Rights Institutions
  • United States