UN Investigates US Human Rights
Earth Island Journal, Summer 1998
For the first time in history, a United Nations delegation
conducted an investigation of alleged human rights violations
inside the US. In February, Abdelfattah Amor of the UN Commission
on Human Rights arrived in the Black Mesa/Big Mountain region
to investigate charges of forced relocation, religious persecution
and environmental degradation of native lands.
The hearings were the result of a 1997 complaint filed by
the Dineh (Navajo) accusing the US Federal Government of violating
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Dineh hoped that
the hearings would pressure the US to repeal Public Laws 93-531
and 104-301, which have allowed authorities to deny the Dineh
access to water and firewood. Dineh families are not allowed to
make improvements to their homes and their livestock has been
confiscated. The US has consistently blocked attempts to address
these grievances in US courts. The Dineh hope the UN will formally
charge the US with human rights violations.
British-owned Peabody Coal Company (PCC), the world's largest
privately-held coal company, operates the Black Mesa/Kayenta strip
mine in the heart of the Black Mesa region of the Dineh reservation.
Over 4,000 burial and sacred sites have been destroyed as a result
of strip mining. The Dineh state that Public Laws 93-531 and 104-301
were written specifically to promote PCC's interests in the region.
The Dineh and Hopi reservations sit atop one of the largest
aquifers in the Southwest. PCC has been operating coal slurry
pipelines that transport coal to Las Vegas and Southern California
without replacing the massive amounts of water the pipelines draw
from the aquifer, as required by US mining regulations. The result
is that wells are rapidly running dry across the Dineh and Hopi
Mr. Amor listened as Dineh elders told of evictions, demolition
of homes. and harassment by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. Elders
from the neighboring Hopi reservation verified many of the Dineh's
statements, especially accounts of the increasing scarcity of
water in the region.
Hopi elders came to dispel the myth of a Dineh/Hopi land dispute,
which traditional Dineh and Hopi say has been manufactured by
the Hopi and Dineh tribal councils (which traditional Dineh and
Hopi regard as puppets of the US government).
Microbroadcasting activists from California's Free Radio Berkeley
and Radio Clandestina in Los Angeles set up a temporary micro-
power radio station- Free Radio Dineh - for the UN visit. For
three days these stations broadcast interviews and commentary
from Dineh resisters as well as testimony from the hearings to
residents of the Black Mesa/Big Mountain region. The audio-activists
hope to set up a permanent micropower station for the Dineh in
the near future.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Amor told his audience, "I
will listen with an open mind and an open heart." The Dineh
are hopeful that they will see a positive result from the hearings.
For more information, contact www theofficenet. com/~redorman
Rights Hearing Faults US
Earth Island Journal, Summer 1998
US - The number of US children living in poverty has grown
from 14 percent in 1969 to 20.5 percent - nearly 14.5 million
kids. The Children's Defense Fund estimates that 2.6 million kids
in the eastern US live in extreme poverty ($120 a week for a family
A hearing in Oakland, California, held on the 50th anniversary
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights condemned the US
for having the largest income disparity of any industrialized
country. Since 1979, incomes for the wealthiest citizens have
grown 24 percent while the income for the poorest fifth of US
households dropped 11 percent. Despite the longest economic boom
in US history, 30 million citizens still to go bed hungry - a
50 percent increase since 1985.
The Institute for Food and Development Policy [398 60th Street,
Oakland, CA 94618, (510) 654-4400, fax: -4551] hosted the conference
in hopes of persuading the US to ratify the UN International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This global treaty has
been ratified by 136 countries. The US is the only industrial
nation that has not ratified the agreement. Senate conservatives
oppose the treaty because it would commit the US to provide adequate
food, shelter and employment to all US citizens as a basic universal
Meanwhile, the latest UN report on The State of the World's
Children ranks the US 29th - behind the Czech Republic and the
Republic of Korea - in the rate of mortality for children under
5 years of age.
Human Rights, Justice, Reform