America’s human rights record is coming under scrutiny before the UN Human Rights Council for the first time. Every UN member is subject to what is called a universal periodic review every four years. The US is taking it seriously, sending a high-level delegation of some 30 officials to fend off expected attacks in a forum dominated by developing countries, many of them Muslim.
But also allies, such as Britain, Japan and Norway have raised concerns, for example about the use of the death penalty in the US and the US detention facility in Guantánamo.
Groups like Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, have also criticised the US, claiming that protection of fundamental freedoms in the US has eroded since 9/11.
Recently, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said the US had not started any investigations into alleged war crimes incidents detailed in thousands of documents published by WikiLeaks and has instead concentrated on tracking down those responsible for the leaks.
Last month, WikiLeaks published 400,000 US field reports containing evidence that US soldiers handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad. This followed the publication of 75,000 documents in the summer revealing how coalition forces killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents in Afghanistan.
It will be interesting to see if all sides at the UN can avoid politicising the debate.
But we won’t be holding our breath.