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U.S. shutdown forces delay in U.N. scrutiny of rights record

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.S. government shutdown has forced the postponement of U.N. scrutiny of its rights record, including over accusations of suspected abuses by the National Security Agency, immigration reform and access to abortion, activists said on Thursday.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee, composed of 18 independent experts, had been due to examine U.S. compliance with a landmark political and civil rights treaty in Geneva on October 17-18.

"The report of the United States had been scheduled to be reviewed during the session, but it has been postponed until March 2014 at the request of the United States, due to the ongoing government shutdown," a U.N. statement said.

The partial shutdown of the federal government was triggered after Congress failed to reach an agreement on funding for the new fiscal year due to a standoff over healthcare reforms.

"This senseless shutdown postponed what would have been first major scrutiny by a leading U.N. human rights body of critical issues like NSA surveillance, targeted killings, immigration reform, voting rights, access to abortion, mass incarceration and more," Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told Reuters.

The ACLU was among some 60 human rights groups due to present testimony on the U.S. record, the first review since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

"There isn't a lack of serious issues around the U.S., whether it's imprisonment in solitary confinement for extended periods, the death penalty and a whole host of 'war on terror' issues," Peter Splinter, Amnesty International's representative to the United Nations in Geneva, told Reuters.

He cited concerns around dozens of foreign security suspects held for years without charge or trial at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, as well as disclosures by former NSA spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The U.N. watchdog will still review Bolivia, Djibouti, Mauritania, Mozambique and Uruguay at its October 14-November 1 session.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)

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