City Commission Discusses Human Rights Report

Photo: The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission presented the first draft of a report on human rights at a forum Monday, where members of the commission and community discussed the status of various human rights in the city.
Sean Goebel/Photo
The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission presented the first draft of a report on human rights at a forum Monday, where members of the commission and community discussed the status of various human rights in the city.





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Berkeley is set to become the first city to issue a report on the status of human rights to assist the federal government in complying with an international treaty.

The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission presented a draft of the report at a public forum Monday night. The report is designed to provide information to help the federal government comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights treaty, which was signed by the United States in 1992 and requires ratifying nations to submit reports on human rights at state and national levels.

The draft of the report covers nine categories of research related to the right of human dignity named in the treaty.

"Only the people themselves can really say what the state of their human rights is," said George Lippman, vice chair of the commission, at the forum.

Four current and former UC Berkeley students and interns with the commission spoke at the forum about their findings on the rights to shelter, health and education, as well as rights of the disabled and rights to environmental and criminal justice.

"What was most striking ... is a stark disparity in the city of Berkeley," said Michel Kim, a UC Berkeley history and political science major and commission intern who presented on the category of the right to health, at the forum. "African Americans living in wealthier areas die at a similar rate to whites living in more impoverished areas. This shows how it can be divided by race."

Members of the community shared their experiences following presentations for each category.

Diana Bohn, one of the 14 commissioners, said the purpose of having the public forum and asking for community members' testimonies was to get multiple points of view that could not be gleaned from simply looking at city documents.

Set to be completed in time for the next commission meeting on May 3, the report will outline human rights problems in Berkeley and offer remedies for them, with each item referring to a specific article in the treaty, according to Bohn.

"The biggest thing that was brought to us was the concern about the looming cutbacks in social services, education and employment," Lippman said.

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Contact Hannah Moulthrop at [email protected]



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