On March 6, the US State Department released its Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices for 2006. As in previous years, the State Department pointed
the finger at human rights conditions in more than 190 countries and regions,
including China, but avoided touching on the human rights situation in the
United States. To help the world have a better understanding of the situation in
the United States and promote the international cause of human rights, we hereby
publish the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2006.
US soldiers detain Iraqis as they inspect their car in Muqdadiyah,
Iraq, 90 kilometers north of Baghdad. AP
I. On Life, Property and Security of Person
The life, property and personal security of people of the United States are
affected by rampant violent crimes. The US Justice Department reported on
September 10, 2006 that there were 5.2 million violent crimes in the United
States in 2005, up 2.5 percent from the previous year, the highest rate in 15
Statistics released by the US Justice Department in 2006 showed that in 2005
American residents aged 12 or above experienced 23 million crimes; for every
1,000 persons aged 12 or older, there occurred 1 rape or sexual assault, 1
assault with injury, and 3 robberies. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Criminal
Victimization, in: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs.)
Murder, robbery and other violent crimes reported in the United States jumped
3.7 percent in the first half of 2006 over the same period in 2005, with robbery
alone up by a startling 9.7 percent.
Murders that occurred in cities with a population of between 500,000 and 1
million in the same period were up by 8.4 percent year on year. (FBI: Violent
Crimes up in 1st Half of '06. MSNBC.com, December 19, 2006. in:
In the first half of 2006, murder was up a whopping 27.5 percent in Boston.
In Memphis, murder increased 43 percent in 2006. In Cincinnati, murder was up 19
percent in the first six months of 2006.
Robbery increases for the first half of 2006 across the United States were
stunning: Rochester, N.Y., up 47 percent; suburban Montgomery County, Md., up 37
percent; Minneapolis up 36.8 percent. (Startling New Stats Show Cross-Country
Crime Spike. ABC News, October 12, 2006.)
From January 1 to December 10, there were 384 slayings in Philadelphia, and
the number exceeded the total toll of victims in 2005. (City Effort Needs to
Grow. Editorial, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 12, 2006.)
During the first 11 months in 2006, 147 murders were reported in New Orleans.
That means New Orleanians were murdering each other at a rate of 73.5 murders
per 100,000 residents, exceeding that of the nation's most murderous city
Compton, California, whose rate was 67 murders per 100,000 people in 2005.
(Crime Takes Hold of New Orleans. USA Today, December 1, 2006.)
Orlando, Florida, reported 42 murders in the first 10 months in 2006, nearly
double the 22 slayings last year in the city of 200,000 people. (USA Today,
November 1, 2006)
And in Washington, the police department declared a crime emergency and a 10
p.m. curfew for juveniles in July 2006, after the city had 11 homicides in 13
days. (Police Chiefs Cite Youths in Crime Rise, Call for More Federal Funds. The
Washington Post, August 31, 2006.)
The Washington Post reported on December 14, 2006 that there had been 35 bank
robberies in Montgomery County in 2006, with three banks robbed on December 13
within minutes of each other.
The United States has the largest number of privately owned guns in the
world. The unchecked spread of guns has caused many murders.
A report released by the US Justice Department in 2006 said that in 2005,
477,040 victims of violent crimes stated that they faced an offender with a
A Washington metropolitan police department report stated in 2006 that from
2001 to 2005, 901 of 1,126 homicide victims, or about 80 percent, were fatally
shot, while the percentage in New Orleans was 92 percent. (District Slaying
Usually with Gun. The Washington Times, November 17, 2006.)
Chicago was hit with 5 slayings and 3 injuries on late May 20 and early May
21, 2006. (Weekend Shooting Kills 5. The Chicago Tribune, May 22, 2006.)
On November 16, Detroit reported 2 people killed and 3 injured within 10
minutes in the city's west. (Detroit Man Charged with Murder, Assault in
Apparently Random Shooting Spree That Killed 2. AP, Nov. 20, 2006.)
In Kansas, Missouri, a man shot five people to death on Dec. 16, including
his longtime girlfriend and three of their children. He then killed himself.
(Man kills 5 in Family, Then Self. The Kansas City Star, Dec. 17, 2006.)
And on Christmas Eve of 2006, a gunman opened fire at shopping people in a
shopping mall in Florida, and then on the police, killing one man. (Mall Shooter
Likely Knew Victim, Police Say. CNN.com, Dec. 24, 2006.)
Campus shootings are rampant in the United States. The country reported 3
campus shootings in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Colorado within one week from
the end of September to the beginning of October 2006. Five girls were fatally
shot and 6 others injured during a shooting incident in an Amish school in
Pennsylvania on Oct. 2, 2006. (Man Shoots 11, Killing 5 Girls, in Amish School.
The New York Times, Oct. 3, 2006.)
II. On Human Rights Violations by Law Enforcement and Judicial Departments
In the United States, human rights violations committed by law enforcement
and judicial departments are common.
Police abuses are very serious. A Human Rights Watch report issued on
December 4, 2006 said that since the September 11 attacks, the US Department of
Justice has used material witness warrants to imprison without charge at least
The Washington Post reported on December 1, 2006 that citizen complaints
filed with a review board about alleged New York Police Department abuses had
increased by 60 percent from 2001 to 2005.
Craig Futterman, a law professor of the University of Chicago who has studied
the Chicago Police Department's handling of complaints against officers, said
over the past five years, 662 out of 13,500 police officers in Chicago had been
the subject of 10 or more complaints, and he saw "a picture of impunity within
the Chicago Police Department. You have a small number of officers who
perpetrate crimes who have absolute impunity." (The Chicago Tribune, November
In September 2006, four members of the Special Operations Section of the
Chicago Police Department were arrested for allegations of a string of
robberies, kidnappings and false arrests. But investigation showed that the
police internal affairs division had been aware of numerous allegations against
the officers for four years without taking disciplinary action against them.
In November 2006, two former inmates at Cook County Jail filed suit in
federal court alleging that they were attacked by guards and severely beaten
while they were handcuffed.
Michael Mejia, one of the inmates, was handcuffed by guards, who then grabbed
the back of his neck and slammed his head and face into the cement wall. The
officers also stomped and kicked the inmates when they were handcuffed and lying
on the floor. The two men later filed complaints, but the jail's internal
affairs division decided not to investigate. (Ex-inmates Charge County Jail
Beating. The Chicago Tribune, November 15, 2006)
On November 17, 2006, Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a 23-year-old senior of the
UCLA, was stunned with a Taser by a campus police officer after he refused
requests to show his ID card.( The Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2006)
On the morning of Nov. 25, 2006, five officers from the New York Police
Department fired 50 bullets at a car with three unarmed men inside after the car
struck an unmarked police van. The car was hit by 21 bullets. One man in the car
was killed and the other two were wounded.( The Associated Press, November 25,
On Dec. 5, 2006, a Los Angeles police officer, Sean Joseph Meade, was caught
on videotape applying a chokehold to a handcuffed 16-year-old boy inside the
Central Division station. The officer's actions were recorded by a hidden camera
that had been installed in the chair. (The Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2006)
Injustice of the judiciary is quite shocking. A year-long investigation by
The New York Times of New York State's town and village courts found a long
trail of judicial abuses and errors. In some cases, defendants were sent to jail
without a guilty plea or a trial, or tossed from their homes without a proper
proceeding. (In Tiny Courts of N.Y., Abuses of Law and Power. The New York
Times, September 25, 2006)
The Associated Press reported on March 4, 2006 that nearly all records are
being kept secret for more than 5,000 defendants who completed their journey
through the federal courts from 2003 to 2005. The percentage of defendants who
have reached verdicts and been sentenced but still have most of their records
sealed rose from 1.1 percent in 2003 to 2.7 percent in 2005. Such cases showed
that the US constitutional presumption for openness in the courts is not
Frame-up and wrong cases can be widely found. The Los Angles Times reported
in June 2006 that investigations and reviews by experts from the University of
Michigan on 328 controversial criminal cases over the past 17 years found that
all of them are frame-up or wrong cases. Based on that finding, experts
estimated that currently there were tens of thousands of innocent people jailed
in the United States.
A man in Chicago had been in prison since the mid-1990s after being convicted
of raping a woman, and police turned down his repeated requests for DNA tests on
the pretext of lack of evidence. In 2006, he was told that new DNA tests show
that he was not the assailant.
Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and other government agencies have referred 6,472 individuals to
prosecutors on terrorism-related charges.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University said
nearly three-quarters of terrorism suspects seized by the United States in the
five years following the September 11 attacks have not even made it to trial
because of lack of evidence against them.
In 64 percent of the cases, federal prosecutors decided that they were not
worth prosecuting, while an additional nine percent were either dismissed by
judges or the individuals were found not guilty. (Agence France-Presse,
September 4, 2006)
The United States has the world's largest number of prisoners.
According to a report issued by the US Department of Justice on November 30,
2006, by the end of 2005, nearly 2.2 million inmates were held in state and
federal prisons or country and municipal jails.
The adult US correctional population, including those on probation or parole,
reached a high of more than seven million men and women for the first time.
About 3 percent of the US adult population, or one in every 32 adults, were
in the nation's prisons and jails or on probation or parole. Four states
Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma have incarceration rates of more than
650 per 100,000, with Louisiana soaring above all other states with the
astonishing rate of 797. (US Addiction to Incarceration Puts 2.3 Million in
Prison. Human Rights Watch, December 1, 2006)
As a result, state prisons were operating between one percent under and 14
percent over capacity. The federal system was operating at 34 percent over
capacity. (Agence France-Presse, November 30, 2006)
According to a report of New York-based China Press on October 4, 2006, there
were 173,000 people jailed in the prisons of California State, and 1,700 of them
failed to have normal living conditions. In 33 prisons the number of inmates was
more than twice the capacity. Some gymnasiums were changed into temporary
shelters for prisoners and even churches were used temporarily for prisoners to
Abuses in US prisons are also common. The United States is the only country
in the world that allows the use of police dogs to terrify prisoners. An
investigative report by the Human Rights Watch said that five state prison
systems in the United States, including Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, South
Dakota and Utah, permit the use of aggressive, unmuzzled dogs to terrify and
even attack prisoners in efforts to remove them from their cells.
Connecticut prisons were found to have used police dogs nearly 20 times to
take on prisoners. In Iowa State, 63 such cases were reported from March 2005 to
A US government report, issued on Jan. 16, 2006, said that five prisons were
negligent to illegal immigrants who went on hunger strike or committed suicide.
The illegal immigrants were also provided with half-cooked food. (The
Washington Post, January 17, 2007)
It was reported that the Florida State Prison used chemical agents against
prisoners 238 times in 2000, 285 times in 2001, 447 in 2002 and 611 in 2003 and
277 in 2004, which left 10 prisoners seriously injured and some with mental
diseases. (www. Allhatnocattle.net, February 13, 2006)
The United States has nearly 60 "super-security prisons", housing about 2,000
prisoners. The inmates are jailed in 6-square-meter wards, which are sound proof
with lights and monitors on around the clock. Such prisons have left many
prisoners with mental diseases.
What's more, prisoners are often deprived of some basic rights. An editorial
of The New York Times on July 31, 2006 said that the United States has the worst
record in the "free world" when it comes to stripping convicted felons of the
right to vote. In contrast, most European countries hold that right so dear that
they bring ballot boxes into prisons.
Prisons are hotbeds of disease and crime.
A report, issued by the US Department of Justice on September 7, 2006, said
that more than half of the inmates in US prisons suffered from mental problems.
About 56 percent of inmates in state prisons, 64 percent in detention houses
and 45 percent of federal prisoners had received treatment or shown symptoms of
various mental diseases, including serious melancholia, mania and hallucination.
More than 1.5 million inmates are released each year carrying life
threatening contagious diseases. (Rising Prison Problems Begin to Trickle into
Society. USA Today, June 12, 2006)
Each year, approximately 7,000 Americans die in US prisons. Some of these
deaths are from natural causes, but many more result from mental disorders left
undiagnosed and diseases left untreated. (Prison Death: A National Shame. The
Baltimore Sun, December 6, 2006)
A report published by the US Department of Justice in November 2006 showed
that an estimated 37 percent of county and municipal jail inmates reported
having a current medical problem other than a cold or virus, in a national
During 2004, the number of confirmed AIDS cases in state and federal prisons
increased from 5,944 to 6,027. The rate of confirmed AIDS cases in state and
federal prisoners (50 per 10,000 prison inmates) was more than three times
higher than in the total US population (15 per 10,000 persons).
Suicides among inmates are rising. The USA Today reported on December 28,
2006 that 41 inmates committed suicide in California in 2006. In Texas's prison
system, there were 24 suicides. Texas prisons also reported 652 attempted
suicides in 2006, an increase of 17 percent compared with the number in 2005.
Sexual assaults in US prisons are common. A report by the United Nations
Committee Against Torture on May 19, 2006 said that at least 13 percent of
inmates in US prisons had suffered from sexual assaults and many have suffered
frequent sexual abuses.
It estimated that nearly 200,000 inmates currently in prisons were or will
become victims of sexual violence. The number of prisoners who had suffered
sexual assaults over the past 20 years is likely to exceed one million.
III. On Civil and Political Rights
In recent years, American citizens have suffered increasing civil rights
Since the September 11 attacks, the US government has put average Americans
under intense surveillance as part of terrorism investigations.
According to a survey released in December 2006, two-thirds of Americans
believe that the FBI and other federal agencies are intruding on their privacy
rights. (The Washington Post, December 13, 2006)
A report from the US Justice Department, dated April 28, 2006, disclosed that
its use of electronic surveillance and search warrants in national security
investigations jumped 15 percent in 2005.
According to the report, the FBI issued 9,254 national security letters in
2005, covering 3,501 US citizens and legal foreign residents.
The Justice Department said the data did not include what probably were
thousands of additional letters issued to obtain more limited information about
some individuals or letters that were issued about targets who were in the US
illegally. (The Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2006)
Reports show a Pentagon research team monitors more than 5,000 jihadist
websites, focusing daily on the 25 to 100 most hostile and active. (MSNBC News
Service, May 4, 2006)
An internal memo of the FBI shows that the agency has spent resources
gathering information on anti-war and environmental protesters and on activists
who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless. In the United States, the government
has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of
According to USA Today, more employers feel they have justifiable reason to
pry, track workers' whereabouts through Global Positioning System (GPS)
satellite, implant employees with microchips and hire private investigators to
check up on what employees are really doing at work.
According to a study by the American Management Association and The ePolicy
Institute, 76 percent of companies monitor employees' website connections, 65
percent block access to specific sites, and 36 percent track the content,
keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard. More than half the employers retain
and review e-mail messages. (USA TODAY, Nov. 7, 2006)
As The Associated Press reported on January 4, 2007, a signing statement
attached to postal legislation by US administration may have allowed for the
government to open mail without a warrant.
An internal review of the US State Department has found that US officials
screened the public statements and writings of private citizens for criticism of
the administration before deciding whether to select them for foreign speaking
The vetting practice, the Washington Post said, appears to have been part of
the administration's pattern of controlling information, muffling dissenting
views. (The Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2006)
On May 23, 2006, Electronic Frontier Foundation, a US-based organization
committed to protecting citizens'privacy, accused the FBI of undercutting the
intent of the privacy law, saying the agency has built a database with more than
659 million records culled from more than 50 FBI and other government agency
sources. (http://www.eff.org/press/ Aug. 30, 2006)
The United States touts itself as the "beacon of democracy", but the US mode
of democracy is, essentially, one in which money talks.
In 2004, candidates for the House of Representatives who raised less than one
million US dollars had almost no chance of winning, the USA TODAY quoted a
spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics as saying in a report on Oct.
The average successful Senate campaign cost 7 million dollars, it said. In
2006, all state campaigns in the United States were predicted to cost about 2.4
In California, the oil and tobacco industries were the year's two biggest
spenders with a total of 161.6 million dollars, and they became the two biggest
winners. (The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2006)
In the House race in Pennsylvania, the National Republican Congressional
Committee spent 3.9 million dollars, mostly in ads against Democratic candidate
Lois Murphy, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent 3 million
dollars against Republican candidate Jim Gerlach. (The Baltimore Sun, Nov. 6,
Seventy-four percent of respondents to a new Opinion Research poll say the US
Congress is generally out of touch with average Americans, as CNN reported on
October 18, 2006, and 79 percent of those surveyed say they feel big business
has too much influence over the administration's decisions.
Corruption is a serious problem in US politics.
More than 1,000 government employees, including hundreds of police officers,
have been convicted in FBI graft cases in the past two years.
Former high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy,
fraud and tax evasion charges, revealing the biggest scandal of trading money
for power to hit Washington in decades. (CNN, Jan. 3, 2006)
Meanwhile, four Republicans have resigned from the House under a cloud in the
year. A handful of other members of the Congress are under investigation. (USA
Today, Dec. 12, 2006)
Over the past five-and-a-half years, US Republican and Democratic lawmakers
accepted nearly $50 million in trips, often to resorts and exclusive locales, as
The Washington Post reported on June 6, 2006.
From January 2000 through June 2005, House and Senate members and their aides
were away from Washington for more than 81,000 days a combined 222 years on at
least 23,000 trips.
US lawmakers accepted thousands of costly jaunts to some of the world's
choicest destinations: at least 200 to Paris, 150 to Hawaii and 140 to Italy, it
Twenty-five individual lawmakers accepted more than $120,000 worth of travel
during the period and private trip sponsors spent the most money on about two
dozen congressional offices. (Seattle Times, June 6, 2006)
In the United States, scandals of government manipulating the media give the
lie to press freedom in the country. To serve its political purposes, the US
government often produces fake news stories and passes them off as normal news
to domestic and overseas audiences.
The US State Department, among 20 federal agencies, was found to have
produced and distributed such items. (The Independent, May 29, 2006)
In recent years, some journalists were harassed or detained by US law
enforcement agencies for declining to reveal their sources.
In 2005, a Rhode Island TV reporter spent four months confined at home by a
judge for refusing to expose the source.
In San Francisco, a federal prosecutor tried to force two San Francisco
Chronicle reporters to reveal sources of secret grand jury testimony used in
stories. (USA Today, June 22, 2006)
Two journalists were sentenced to 18 months in prison for contempt of court
in September 2006 and another Los Angeles freelancer was sent to prison for a
year on a contempt charge after refusing to turn over to a grand jury his
private video clips. (SFGate.com August 1, 2006)
IV. On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The United States is the richest country in the world, but it lacks proper
guarantees for people's economic, social and cultural rights.
Americans in poverty constitute the "Third World" of US society. A report
released by the US Census Bureau on August 29, 2006 said there were 37 million
people living in poverty in 2005, accounting for 12.6 percent of total US
The report also said there were 7.7 million families in poverty and one out
of eight Americans was living in poverty in 2005. The poverty rates of Cleveland
and Detroit were as high as 32.4 percent and 31.4 percent respectively - nearly
one out of three was living under the poverty line.
AFP reported on February 24, 2007 that based on the latest available US
census data, the McClatchy Newspapers analysis found that almost 16 million
Americans live in "deep or severe poverty", the highest number since at least
1975, up by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005.
Between 2000 and 2005, the US economy grew by 12 percent in real terms and
productivity, measured by output per hour worked in the business sector, which
rose 17 percent.
Over the same period, the median hourly wage - the wage the average American
takes home - rose only three percent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. That,
compared with a 12 percent gain in the previous five years, was lower than it
was in 2000. (Financial Times, Nov. 2, 2006)
Hunger and homelessness remain a critical issue. A report released by US
Department of Agriculture on November 15, 2006 revealed that in the previous
year 34.8 million Americans did not have enough money or other resources to buy
A survey on 23 US cities including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles by the US
Conference of Mayors found that in 2006 requests for emergency food assistance
increased by an average of seven percent over 2005, with 74 percent of the
cities registering an increase.
Also, requests for emergency shelter assistance increased by an average of
nine percent over 2005, with 68 percent of the surveyed cities showing an
increase. (US Conference of Mayors-Sodexho, Inc. Release 2006 Hunger and
Homelessness Survey, www.usmayors.org)
Currently, there are 600,000 or so homeless people nationwide, including
16,000 homeless in Washington D.C. and 3,800 in New York City. (The New York
Times, The Washington Post and Reuters reports, October to December, 2006)
It is estimated there are 3,000 to 4,000 homeless people in Baltimore on any
given night. (The Baltimore Sun, Nov. 20, 2006)
In Hawaii, around 1,000 homeless people are living in tents along beaches.
(The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2006)
A survey found that in Los Angeles City and surrounding communities there
were 88,345 homeless people, and the mayor declared the city to be "the capital
of homelessness in America." (The Los Angeles Times, Jan. 12, 2006)
The average living standards in the United States are among the highest in
the world but the United States lags behind most countries in legal protection
for labor and family-friendly policies in the workplace.
The Voice of America reported on February 4, 2007 that a study of 173
countries with high, middle and low income jointly conducted by Harvard
University and McGill University found the United States is one of only five
countries that do not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave, the other
four countries being Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.
Of the 173 countries, 137 provide paid annual leave but there is no federal
law to guarantee such leave in the United States.
(China Daily 03/09/2007 page20)