UN panel urges US to address racial disparities in criminal justice system

[JURIST] The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] on Friday concluded its review [report, PDF; press release] of US compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text]. The committee praised the US for reauthorizing key laws, including the Violence Against Women Act and the Voting Rights Act, but also expressed concern over racial disparities in the criminal justice system. According to the committee's summary of its observations:

The Committee also reiterated its concern with regard to the persistent racial disparities in the criminal justice system of the United States, including the disproportionate number of persons belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities in the prison population and the significant racial disparities with regard to the imposition of the death penalty. It recommended that the United States allocate sufficient resources to ensure legal representation of indigent persons belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities in civil proceedings. Moreover, the United States should increase significantly its efforts to eliminate police brutality and excessive use of force against persons belonging to racial, ethnic or national minorities, and also increase efforts to prevent and punish violence and abuse against women belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities.
The panel also expressed concern over "enemy combatants" in US custody:
The Committee regrets the position taken by State party that the Convention is not applicable to the treatment of foreign detainees held as "enemy combatants", on the basis of the argument that the law of armed conflict is the exclusive lex specialis applicable, and that in any event the Convention "would be inapplicable to allegations of unequal treatment of foreign detainees" in accordance to article 1, paragraph 2, of the Convention. The Committee also notes with concern that the State party exposes non-citizens under its jurisdiction to the risk of being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by means of transfer, rendition, or refoulement to third countries where there are substantial reasons to believe that they will be subjected to such treatment.
Panel experts also urged the US government to cease the racial profiling of people of middle eastern and south Asian descent. Reuters has more.

Last month, the committee said that the US must do more to meet its obligations to fight racial discrimination [JURIST report] under the treaty. The US has defended [PDF text] its implementation of the treaty, which it ratified in 1994. The committee is charged with periodically reviewing the performance of the 173 countries that have signed and ratified CERD. The United States last appeared before the committee in 2001 [CERD concluding observations].

 

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