NY Times: U.S. Must Do More on Civil Rights, Officials Agree
“We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to our promise,” James Cadogan, a senior Justice Department official, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
United States authorities brought criminal charges against 400 law enforcement officials in the last six years, Mr. Cadogan said. But the deaths of Freddie Gray in Maryland, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina “challenge us to do better and work harder for progress,” he said.
His comments came as officials from eight federal agencies and the state of Illinois presented an account of developments in human rights under which the council reviews all states every four years.
The US delegation presented a response to a UN report produced six months ago on racial discrimination in the US
and on other Civil Rights issues, including electronic surveillance, CIA interrogations, immigrant detentions, Guantanamo Bay etc.
The ACLU was not impressed:
“It was the same old story of the U.S. dragging its feet on taking effective action to fully implement its human rights obligations,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program said.
Al Jazeera is covering the story with naked glee: US cited for police violence, racism in scathing UN review on human rights
The United States was slammed over its rights record Monday at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with member nations criticizing the country for police violence and racial discrimination, the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility and the continued use of the death penalty.
The issue of racism and police brutality dominated the discussion on Monday during the country’s second universal periodic review (UPR). Country after country recommended that the U.S. strengthen legislation and expand training to eliminate racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement.
"I'm not surprised that the world's eyes are focused on police issues in the U.S.," said Alba Morales, who investigates the U.S. criminal justice system at Human Rights Watch.
"There is an international spotlight that's been shone [on the issues], in large part due to the events in Ferguson and the disproportionate police response to even peaceful protesters," she said.
Anticipating the comments to come, James Cadogan, a senior counselor to the U.S. assistant attorney general, told delegates gathered in Geneva, "The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a long-standing and critical national debate about the even-handed administration of justice. These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress — through both dialogue and action."
All of the names he mentioned are black men or boys who were killed by police officers or died shortly after being arrested. The events have sparked widespread anger and unrest over the past year.
Cadogan added that the Department of Justice has opened more than 20 investigations in the last six years — including an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department — as well as the release of a report of the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing in March, which included more than 60 recommendations.
Chad's delegate took a moment to provide his take:
"Chad considers the United States of America to be a country of freedom, but recent events targeting black sectors of society have tarnished its image," said Awada Angui of the U.N. delegation to Chad.
It's refreshing in a way.
Michael Brown's parents testified at the last review (in August) as reported by CNN and NBC News:
Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. spoke to the United Nations Committee Against Torture -- which also works against cruel or degrading treatment or punishment by government authorities.
"We need the world to know what's going on in Ferguson and we need justice," McSpadden told CNN in Geneva, Switzerland.
"We need answers and we need action. And we have to bring it to the U.N. so they can expose it to the rest of the world, what's going on in small town Ferguson."
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