Friday, March 07, 2008

UN criticises US racial profiling post 9/11

AFP - US law enforcement is guilty of discrimination in its use of racial profiling to target Arabs and Muslims since the attacks of September 11, 2001, a United Nations report said on Friday.

The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ”is deeply concerned about the increase in racial profiling against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians in the wake of the 9/11 attacks,” the report said.

It urged Washington to strengthen its efforts to combat the phenomenon at both a state and federal level.

“Measures taken in the fight against terrorism must not discriminate, in purpose or effect, on the grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin,” the report said.

The US signed up to the Convention in 1994 but has been criticised by rights groups for failing to implement its provisions in full.

The report urged the US administration to “review the definition of racial discrimination used in the federal and state legislation and in court practice”.

Black Americans and other minorities continue to suffer discrimination across all sections of society, from the education and justice systems to access to housing and healthcare, it said.

Minorities “are disproportionately concentrated in poor residential areas characterised by sub-standard housing conditions, limited employment opportunities, inadequate access to health-care facilities, under-resourced schools and high exposure to crime and violence,” the report noted.

Police brutality is also a serious problem and a culture of impunity prevails despite some states’ efforts to prosecute offenders for criminal misconduct.

Prior to the committee’s report, an array of rights groups including Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union charged that the US is guilty of “persistent and systematic” racial discrimination.

ACLU spokesman Jamil Dakwar welcomed the report’s findings, which he said showed that the US is “out of step with the rest of the world” in implementing the convention.

“We’re hoping this message will resonate in Washington,” he told AFP.

“The US can’t just talk the talk, it must walk the walk” in actively implementing legislation to end racism, he added.

UN panel says US must give foreign terror detainees same access to courts as American citizens.

Associated Press - A U.N. panel on racism said Friday that the United States had an obligation to ensure foreign terror detainees are given the same legal protections and access to courts as U.S. citizens.

The committee of 18 independent experts on racism said failing to guarantee such rights would violate an international treaty on the elimination of racial discrimination.

In particular, the committee said it was concerned about the CIA practice known as extraordinary rendition, under which terrorism suspects taken into custody abroad have been transported to third countries where rights groups say they could face torture.

Such detainees have not been given the same access to judicial review of their detention and complaints of human rights violations as U.S. citizens have under domestic law, the panel concluded.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, whose members are unpaid specialists from a wide range of countries, published its conclusions Friday. The experts periodically review the performance of each country that has signed the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The panel's conclusions said countries that have signed the treaty must ensure that measures taken in the struggle against terrorism do not discriminate ... on grounds of race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin.

The committee urged the U.S. to take steps «to guarantee the right of foreign detainees held as 'enemy combatants' to judicial review of the lawfulness and conditions of detention, as well as their right to remedy for human rights violations.

Terror detainees must also be effectively protected by domestic law, in line with international human rights standards, the panel said.

Rights groups say the non-citizens who were subjected to rendition, torture and indefinite detention by the U.S. after Sept. 11, 2001, were all Muslim men.

Ajamu Baraka from the Atlanta-based U.S. Human Rights Network said, The observations confirm the fact that national security concerns cannot trump the obligations of a state to protect the human rights of both citizens and non-citizens.