In late December 2013 the Best Practices Policy Project worked with SWOP-PHX to send a report to the Human Rights Committee for consideration during the review of how the United States has fared in meeting its obligations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the “ICCPR”). The ICCPR is a key human rights treaty that protects amongst other things equality before the law, the rights of minorities, gender equality, freedom of speech, freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention, and the right to a fair trial.
The submission describes civil rights violations in Phoenix, Arizona based on information collected by sex workers and allies who are actively documenting violations of sex workers’ rights. Advocates found that vague laws in the Phoenix’s criminal code–a person commits a crime if they are in public, within public view, or in a motor vehicle, and they “manifest an intent to commit … prostitution,” even if no exchange of sex for money occurs–create an environment in which police profiling of communities of color, trans and immigrant communities occurs with impunity. Advocates found that due process violations are rampant as a result of Project ROSE, through mass police “sweeps,” arresting scores of sex workers and people the police profile as sex workers. Arrestees are handcuffed and transported via police car to the Project ROSE center, where they speak with police and with a prosecutor working with Project. Arrestees have no opportunity to speak to a defense attorney during this process, even if they request one.
The report references the US government’s obligations under the ICCPR as well as to “recommendation 86” of the Universal Periodic Review of the United States in 2010. In March 2011, following months of advocacy by U.S. human rights and sex worker rights organizations, the U.S. adopted this recommendationthat it “ensure access to public services, paying attention to the special vulnerability of … sexual workers [sex workers] to violence and human rights abuses.” Specifically, the U.S. stated, “No one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution.”