UCI Law Clinic Reports to United Nations on Excessive Use of Force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection


IRVINE, Calif., Sept. 17, 2014 — The University of California, Irvine School of Law International Justice Clinic has reported to the United Nations that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) engages in unlawful excessive use of force and lacks accountability and transparency. The report, endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, was filed in connection with the periodic review of all states under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

“International Justice Clinic students conducted research and visited the border earlier this year,” said third-year student Vahe Mesropyan, lead drafter of the Clinic report. “CBP officials are slowly acknowledging the problems of excessive force, accountability, and transparency, but serious problems remain. Greater international and domestic attention is necessary to generate lasting and meaningful policy change.”

The International Justice Clinic surveyed reporting from the media and non-governmental organizations to demonstrate that dozens of use of force cases, including forty-seven involving death or injury since January 2010, have not resulted in transparent investigations or any accountability for those involved in the incidents. The Clinic recommends a number of steps that CBP, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice should take to ensure accountability and transparency. The International Justice Clinic also previously made similar recommendations to the monitoring committee of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

“While there have been recent steps taken by CBP, such as releasing internal audits and a revised Use of Force Handbook, much more is needed,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. “CBP officials should be held to the highest standards of professionalism and the rights and dignity of tens of millions of border residents need to be protected.”

The UN General Assembly created the Universal Periodic Review in 2006, a unique process according to which every government’s implementation of human rights law is subject to review of the governments sitting on the Human Rights Council. The United States previously participated in the Review in 2010; its next Review will take place before the Council in the spring of 2015. Non-governmental organizations, such as the International Justice Clinic, may submit “shadow reports” to bring issues to the attention of the Human Rights Council.

The Clinic report may be found on line, together with an annex of data compiled by the ACLU and an annex explaining Clinic efforts to discuss the issue with CBP directly. In addition to the International Justice Clinic, the Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) is also engaged in a project to investigate CBP activities, with a focus on roving patrols in the Southern California region.

About the International Justice Clinic at University of California, Irvine School of Law

The students in the International Justice Clinic (IJC) work with activists, lawyers, diplomats, UN officials, scholars and NGOs at home and around the world to develop and implement advocacy strategies concerning accountability for violations of human rights law. Clinic students pursue research, engage in on-the-ground fact finding, conduct interviews in cross-cultural settings, and prepare written and oral reports of their findings. Students focus on oral and written advocacy, coalition building, legal research, and legislative drafting.

About the Southern Border Communities Coalition

The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) brings together more than 60 organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region.

UCI School of Law International Justice Clinic Contact: David Kaye, (949) 824-2427, dkaye@law.uci.edu