• The enormous US prison population, the world's largest, partly reflects harsh sentencing practices contrary to international law, such as disproportionately long prison terms and mandatory sentencing without parole. Those behind bars include a growing number of elderly people, whom prisons are ill-equipped to handle, and youth under age 18 held in adult prisons. Unauthorized immigrants and their families in the United States are vulnerable to abuses stemming from an outdated, ineffective immigration system that deprives them of basic rights, and increasing numbers are held in detention facilities. A number of abusive counterterrorism policies have continued under President Barack Obama, including detentions without charge at Guantanamo Bay.

  • The federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. The prison is one of 130 federal facilities to which convicted federal drug defendants can be sent. © 2001 Andy Clark/REUTERS

    The United States has a vibrant civil society and media that enjoy strong constitutional protections. Yet its rights record is marred by abuses related to criminal justice, immigration, national security, and drug policy. Within these areas, victims are often the most vulnerable members of society: racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the elderly, the poor, and prisoners.

Reports

  • How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy
  • Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions
  • Evidence-Based Treatment for Drug Dependence at the United States Veterans Administration Department of Veterans Affairs

United States

  • Jul 30, 2014
    The undersigned civil liberties, human rights, and other public interest organizations write in support of the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685), which Senator Leahy reintroduced on July 29. We urge both the Senate and the House to pass it swiftly and without any dilution of its protections.
  • Jul 29, 2014
    The US Congress should support greater due process protections for migrant families rather than increasing funding for facilities to detain those crossing the US southern border, Human Rights Watch said today.
  • Jul 29, 2014
    The US Senate should move swiftly to approve a surveillance reform bill introduced on July 29, 2014, by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. The bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, is a significant improvement over a companion bill that the US House of Representatives passed on May 22 and, if approved, has the potential to end bulk collection of phone records in the US.
  • Jul 28, 2014
    While President Obama has unveiled specific initiatives to strengthen US development work in Africa and connect it to core national security objectives, he has not done the same for human rights and the rule of law.
  • Jul 28, 2014
    Large-scale US surveillance is seriously hampering US-based journalists and lawyers in their work, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint report released today. Surveillance is undermining media freedom and the right to counsel, and ultimately obstructing the American people’s ability to hold their government to account, the groups said.
  • Jul 25, 2014
    The United States has failed to comply with key protections under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Human Rights Watch said today. The US, which ratified the treaty in 1994, will appear before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for a periodic review of its record on August 13 and 14, 2014, in Geneva.
  • Jul 24, 2014
    The public debate over the recent surge in child migrants across the US border with Mexico should spur Congress to reform US immigration policy, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a multimedia feature jointly with Time magazine and Platon/The People’s Portfolio.
  • Jul 24, 2014

    The landmark rulings against Poland by the European Court of Human Rights on July 24, 2014, underscore the need for wider European accountability for involvement in US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) counterterrorism abuses. The court ruled Poland was complicit in the rendition, secret detention, and torture of two terrorism suspects.

  • Jul 24, 2014

    Recent attention has focused on innovative medical developments that could dramatically reduce the number of new HIV infections. But ensuring access to health care and medication so that people can benefit from these developments is equally important.

  • Jul 22, 2014