Breaking Through Gridlock to Protect Human Rights: The Case for a Congressional Human Rights Committee

54 S.D. L. Rev. 21 (2017)

58 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2017  

JoAnne Sweeny

University of Louisville

Date Written: July 10, 2017


Congressional gridlock does more than frustrate the populace; it has far-reaching effects, particularly for human rights abuses. From Ferguson, Missouri to Flint, Michigan, government abuses of power and civil rights violations increasingly concern those within the United States. Existing executive bodies, although able to investigate, lack the political power to force Congress to act to remedy these abuses and neither Congress nor state legislatures have offered any solutions. In response, activists have begun to approach international bodies such as the United Nations to voice their concerns, which has also allowed them to re-characterize their plights as human rights issues. If the United States government were able to follow suit, and re-characterize its systemic civil rights abuses as human rights problems, the nation would open itself up to an international conversation with a broader range of potential solutions.

The United Kingdom's Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) presents such a workable solution to congressional gridlock on human rights issues. The JCHR is a respected parliamentary committee that successfully influences all three British government branches to ensure that British legislation protects human rights. This Article shows, through empirical data and anecdotal evidence, that the JCHR's techniques and its corresponding successes and failures can offer a prototype for a Congressional human rights committee that would provide momentum for Congress, courts, the executive, and the public to ensure that Congress can prevent or quickly correct American human rights abuses.

Keywords: human rights, joint committee on human rights, civil rights

Suggested Citation

Sweeny, JoAnne, Breaking Through Gridlock to Protect Human Rights: The Case for a Congressional Human Rights Committee (July 10, 2017). 54 S.D. L. Rev. 21 (2017). Available at SSRN:

JoAnne Sweeny (Contact Author)

University of Louisville ( email )

Louisville, KY 40292
United States

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