Activists Conclude American Government Does Not Adequately Respect Human Rights

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“While it can be magnanimous, America’s ruling class does not respect the constitutional and universal human rights of its underclass.” So concludes a broad-based group of grassroots advocates in its submission to the U.N. which is reviewing America’s human rights record later this year. The group is OAK, Organizations Associating for the Kind of Change America Really Needs. Based on scholarly findings, public policy thought leaders, social science research, and empirical data, OAK contends that “. . . the ability of average Americans to effectively petition their government is so diluted or compromised that what would otherwise be . . . constitutional and universal human rights are no more than privileges, doled out at government discretion.”

“While it can be magnanimous, America’s ruling class does not respect the constitutional and universal human rights of its underclass.” So concludes a broad-based group of grassroots advocates in its submission to the U.N. which will be reviewing America’s human rights record later this year. The international process is known as a Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Participating as a "stakeholder" in America's human rights activities is OAK, Organizations Associating for the Kind of Change America Really Needs. OAK is a national consortium of grassroots advocates "committed to protecting and advancing all aspects of human rights for low and moderate income Americans” to include people earning up to $200,000 annually.

OAK's National Spokesperson, Laurie Singh, explains that the group is more a management tool than an advocate. "We supplement the administrative capabilities of advocates, particularly when they lack major institutional support." OAK bylaws indicate the consortium "was created to assemble a wide spectrum of grassroots advocates; help them transcend obvious differences to harness their critical similarities; otherwise help maximize their efficiency and effectiveness; and gear them to function much like a large voting bloc."    

On April 15, 2010, OAK with key NGO members submitted what is projected to be “a historic contribution to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).” Little more than a month earlier, CNSNews.com covered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the international process. America participates in the UPR as a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

‘(W)e are committed to holding everyone to the same standard, including ourselves . . .’’ confirmed Secretary Clinton at a March 2010 State Department press briefing. She encouraged related input from citizens and NGOs, noting that ‘(a)ssessing opportunities for progress and soliciting citizen engagement is one way that we demonstrate our commitment in word and deed to the basic principles that guide us toward a more perfect union and a more peaceful world.’

Yesterday a delegation of OAK members met with congressional staff in D.C. to share the consortium’s requested input and propose legislative solutions. The advocates focused on one aspect of America that the U.N. Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights will address, the country’s “administration of justice and rule of law.”

According to OAK, the rule of law cannot exist without meaningful citizen oversight. Reading directly from the group's UPR submission, Singh explains “. . . the ability of average Americans to effectively petition their government is so diluted or compromised that what would otherwise be our constitutional and universal human rights are no more than privileges, doled out at government discretion. Such is not the rule of law.”

Attorney Zena Crenshaw-Logal crafted OAK’s UPR submission from scholarly findings, public policy thought leaders, social science research, and empirical data. She interjects that the lack of meaningful citizen oversight is “less obvious when a government is generally fair and magnanimous, but most apparent in its treatment of anti-corruption advocates / government whistleblowers.”

OAK’s Capitol Hill delegation reportedly demonstrated that “lack” through personal circumstances and /or advocacy. In addition to Singh, a Virginia resident, and Crenshaw-Logal who lives near Chicago, the delegates included Dr. Glenn Vickers-Bey of Maryland, Betsy Combier and Rebecca Ocampo, both of New York, and attorney Tom Devine of D.C. They met with congressional staff, usually representing the Chair and / or Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as subcommittees for the Senate and House Judiciary Committee. The visits were part of OAK’s annual lobbying event coined “Grass On The Hill Day” (GROTH).

Attorney Tom Devine is Legal Director of the acclaimed Government Accountability Project. He "applauds OAK's work to enfranchise private citizens and expand their capacity as private attorney generals." The Government Accountability Project is a veteran advocate for government whistleblowers or "truth tellers" exposing fraud, waste, and abuse. During GROTH visits Devine emphasized OAK's expansion of whistleblowing beyond the employment context to include citizen whistleblowers. He projects, “OAK can be the pioneer for citizen whistleblower rights, to break the government’s monopoly on law enforcement and to strengthen all our defenses against unprecedented government threats to freedom.”

Singh reports that Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind); Richard Durbin (D-Ill); and Mark Warner (D-Va) as well as Representatives Hank Johnson (D-Ga); Howard Coble (R-NC); and F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wi) have been asked to place OAK’s groundbreaking UPR submission in the Congressional Record. "Until now, national noncompliance with the rule of law seemed impossible to prove as the proof entailed unmanageable amounts of empirical data," states Crenshaw-Logal. "In contrast, OAK hinges that noncompliance on the presence or lack of meaningful citizen oversight which can be readily proven."    

All OAK lobby day delegates confirmed their hope to closely partner with Congress to help restore meaningful citizen oversight in America. Singh adds, “the UPR transforms our domestic issues into foreign affairs meriting international outcry, thereby expanding our scope of potential heroes on Capitol Hill.” Betsy Combier interjects, “what we are saying is there is an immediate need for ‘third rail’ oversight of our Justice Department and Courts and that we, a coalition of concerned and committed individuals and groups, can be successful in bringing about meaningful and sustainable reform."        

Specifically joining OAK’s UPR submission is its sponsor, National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc.; attorney Tom Devine; and OAK Anchor Members: National Forum On Judicial Accountability (NFOJA); POPULAR, Inc. (POPULAR – Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored); and the National Whistleblowers Center.

To learn more, visit http://oak4change.ning.com

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Laurie Singh
OAK
888.478.4439 ext. 3
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Zena Crenshaw-Logal
OAK
219.201.5844
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