FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights: Tanene Allison (212) 244-4664
Today, a key committee at the United Nations raised concern over racism in the United States and the government’s failure to combat racial inequality. In its findings, the U.N. committee highlights ways in which racial discrimination still plays a role in the American experience.
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) repeatedly expressed concern that civil and human rights in the U.S. have been “rolled back”. Problems range from racial segregation in the schools and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, to decreased access to the courts.
“As the U.N. has confirmed, the failure of the U.S. government to ensure that people have access to justice through the courts constitutes a flagrant violation of international human rights law,” said Cristóbal Joshua Alex, Campaign Coordinator of the National Campaign To Restore Civil Rights (NCRCR) and envoy to the Committee.
In language echoing the points highlighted in NCRCR’s Shadow Report to CERD, the U.N. expressed concern over the U.S.’s definition of racial inequality. Recent court cases in the United States have made it more difficult to bring discrimination claims in court, requiring proof of intentional discrimination. Under the U.N. treaty, victims of discrimination may seek justice as long as they can prove the actions had a discriminatory effect. As the U.N. report states, “[The treaty] requires States parties to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms, including practices and legislation that may not be discriminatory in purpose, but in effect.”
The U.N. recommended that recent Supreme Court cases rolling back rights should be corrected through legislation. In repeated instances, the U.N. mentions support for the Civil Rights Act of 2008.
“The message from the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is clear when it comes to the U.S.’ record on human rights and racial equality – the government can’t just talk the talk, it must also walk the walk,” said Jamil Dakwar, Advocacy Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. “To claim the high moral ground and assert leadership on the issue of human rights, the U.S must address the systemic discrimination and injustice that exists in its own backyard. The government must take vigorous steps to implement the committee’s recommendations and fulfill its human rights treaty obligations.”
The full report of concluding observations from the U.N. can be found here.
CERD is an international treaty designed to protect individuals from discrimination based on race, whether that discrimination is intentional, or is the result of seemingly neutral practices. Every four years, countries that have ratified the treaty, as the U.S. did in 1994, must report to the Committee. The U.S. State Department submitted its report in April 2007.
NCRCR testified in Geneva, bringing attention to the U.S. government’s failure to comply with its treaty obligations requiring it to ensure the availability of effective remedies for civil rights violations. NCRCR joined other civil society groups in criticizing the U.S. government’s rollback of civil rights in the courts and submitted a “shadow” report to the Committee, documenting treaty violations that the U.S. ignored in its own report to the U.N.
To view a copy of the shadow report prepared by the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights, please visit our website.