The United States was recently slammed over its human rights record Monday at the United Nations. The Human Rights Council’s member nations strongly criticized the U.S. for rampant and virtually unchecked police brutality and clear, documented racial discrimination. Additionally, the continued used of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility was pointed to as part of a policy of abuse and pattern of systemic racism.
The United States’ second universal periodic review (UPR) focused on issues of rampant racism and injustice, largely carried out by the police on American streets.
The participating nations seemed to nearly-unanimously agree that the U.S. needs to strengthen legislation and expand training for police, in order to get rid of racist cops, and the widespread use of excessive force by law enforcement.
“I’m not surprised that the world’s eyes are focused on police issues in the U.S.,” Alba Morales, an investigator into the U.S. criminal justice system at Human Rights Watch, said.
“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 continued.
But James Cadogan, a senior counselor to the U.S. assistant attorney general, tried to rationalize to 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.”
Few saw this as sufficient though.
Cadogan tried to defend the U.S. government’s impotence to deal with police brutality, by saying that the Department of Justice opened over 20 investigations in the past six years alone.
This, Cadogan explained, includes an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, which rose to national attention in the aftermath of the Freddie Grey killing.
Cadogan also noted the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing which was assembled in March. Cadogan noted that it included over 60 “recommendations.” Still, the participating nations and their representatives didn’t think “recommendations” equalled “action.”
“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.
Morales says the U.S. can do much more to stop this epidemic of police brutality and racism.
“Use of excessive force by police was a major part of this year’s UPR, and the fact that we still don’t have a reliable national figure to know how many people are killed by police or what the racial breakdown is of those people is a travesty,” she explained. “A nation as advanced as the U.S. should be able to gather that number.”
The Justice Department has still not responded to requests for comment.
(Article by M. David and Jackson Marciana; image via David Goldman, AP)