"The U.S. government's report fails to address the persistence of structural racism and inequality in this country, such as the continuing widespread racial and ethnic profiling of Muslim and Arab Americans and people of South Asian descent after 9/11," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "President-elect Obama can signal a departure from the policies of the Bush administration by taking a fresh look at the Committee recommendations and implementing vigorous and proactive measures against racial and ethnic discrimination."
The Committee is an independent group of experts that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which the U.S. signed and ratified in 1994. In March 2008, the Committee issued a strongly worded critique of the U.S. record on racial discrimination and recommendations for U.S. compliance with the CERD treaty. Governments are expected to implement the Committee's recommendations, and yesterday's report was the U.S. government's one-year follow up.
According to the human rights coalition, the Bush administration's report glosses over significant issues of racial inequality during his tenure, including the post-9/11 racial profiling of Muslims and people of Arab and South Asian descent; the denial of adequate housing assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; the disproportionate representation of African Americans and Latinos among the 2,500 juveniles sentenced to life sentences without parole; and the deprivation of Western Shoshone American Indians of their ancestral lands.
"Instead of assisting people to return home and recover as recommended by the U.N. committee, the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina is driving African Americans out of our communities in violation of our human rights to non-discrimination and adequate housing," said Monique Harden, Co-Director and Attorney of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans, Louisiana. "The Bush administration is delusional if it thinks that people of color in the Gulf region believe we've been helped by FEMA or any other federal agency."
"The refusal of the Bush administration to correct the racism inherent in current U.S. sentencing practices has resulted in a disproportionate number of children of color being sentenced to life in prison without parole," said Deborah LaBelle, Director of the Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative. "It is a stain on the U.S. to be the only nation in the world that commits the human rights violation of sentencing children to life in prison, and the fact that it disproportionately affects children of color is one more reason to end this unfair practice.""It is important that President-elect Obama takes action to ensure racial equality by fulfilling the requirements of the CERD treaty," said Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network. "We look forward to working with the Obama administration to submit a corrected report and a plan of action for implementing the recommendations of the U.N. committee."
The Bush administration's final report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination can be viewed online at: www.state.gov/documents/organization/113905.pdf
The Committee's recommendations to the U.S. are available here: www.ushrnetwork.org/files/ushrn/images/linkfiles/CO_USA_adopted-1%20.doc
An U.S. Human Rights Network shadow report to the Committee on the state of racial discrimination in the U.S. and other relevant documents can be found online here: www.ushrnetwork.org/projects/cerd
The ACLU's shadow report to the Committee and more information about CERD is available at: www.aclu.org/cerd
The Human Rights Watch USA World Report 2008 report is available for viewing at http://www.scribd.com/doc/10440320/Human-Rights-Watch-USA-World-Report-2008