UN Human Rights Expert to Visit Baton Rouge, Ferguson, and Convention Host Cities

United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai (credit: www.freeassembly.net)

In the first visit of its kind, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association began a 16-day trip across the U.S. to monitor the status and protection of assembly and association rights in our country. With much of the nation in angst about impending protests at political conventions and deadly police shootings, the special rapporteur will undoubtedly have his hands full.  

Maina Kiai, a Kenyan lawyer and renowned international human rights expert, was appointed as the U.N.’s special rapporteur in 2011 following strong advocacy by the United States to create the mandate. His mission to the United States will culminate in a report that will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council next year and will address gaps in First Amendment protections between U.S. law and policy and international standards.

The report will be an important test of the United States’ reputation and self-perception as a human rights champion. Ever since protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, the U.S. has been under international scrutiny because of its failure to hold police accountable for the killing of unarmed Black men and the use of excessive police force against protesters. Kiai’s visit comes at a time when local police departments across the country are gearing up for further confrontation with protesters, especially after five Dallas police officers were killed during a nonviolent protest against the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

The use of force by police facing protesters has raised national concern. Some police departments are reportedly considering more heavy-handed tactics, including dispatching sniper teams alongside marches. Mass arrests against protesters have become increasingly prevalent nationwide with at least 312 demonstrators arrested in New York, Chicago, St. Paul, and Baton Rouge last week. 

Developments in Baton Rouge are of particular importance to Kiai, whose original travel schedule to Louisiana only included a visit to New Orleans. After media reports and eyewitness accounts brought to light the militarization and illegal use of police force on protesters in Baton Rouge last weekend, the special rapporteur scheduled meetings with community members to explore the many human rights violations that transpired.                                              

The U.N. expert will meet with several civil society representatives, including from Black Lives Matter, Communities United for Police Reform, and other advocacy groups, as well government and law enforcement officials at the federal, state, and local levels. In addition to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, he will visit Baltimore, Ferguson, Jackson, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. Mr. Kiai also plans to observe protests planned during the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention in Cleveland and Philadelphia, respectively.

The meetings will focus on a number of themes impacting the right to peaceful assembly and association: policing and the management of assemblies (including the use of force), the enforcement of U.S. counter-terrorism policy (including government surveillance against minority communities), and anti-union activity against workers (including migrant workers).

Coinciding with the rapporteur’s mandate, ACLU affiliates have had tremendous success defending the right to peaceful assembly for grassroots organizations. The ACLU of Ohio challenged a set of protest restrictions passed by the city of Cleveland in Trump et al v. Cleveland that essentially sequestered protesters into small security zones and prohibited the use of everyday materials like water bottles. The court ruled that city officials must sharpen their justification for speech restrictions, rather than invoking vague “national security” concerns to abridge free speech.

Similarly, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign after the social justice coalition was denied a permit to march during the DNC. On July 1, the ACLU of Pennsylvania announced that the city agreed to reverse its earlier permit denial and granted the PPEHRC authorization to march on a main street during the DNC.

The success of our First Amendment litigation highlights the ways in which the United States has often fallen short of not only meeting its constitutional obligations but also its international treaty obligations. The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States ratified in 1992. Yet, as the national conventions approach, government officials have sought to unreasonably limit protest activity under the guise of “national security concerns.” The United States should instead champion efforts to protect peoples’ fundamental right to free assembly and association and set a strong global example. 

Given the tumultuous nature of our current election cycle and the volatile relationships between communities of color and the police, the freedom to gather and act collectively is even more important. In the coming weeks, the world will be paying close attention to how the U.S. treats those who exercise their right to freedom of assembly and association.

We should be a model for how government handles the right of protesters, not a cautionary tale. 

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Anonymous

Brave man - he's taking his life into his hands by coming to the US and observing while Black.

Anonymous

I think this is just some plan by the elites to claim we're a failed state and justify sending in the UN.

After the shooting in Dallas, there were UN vehicles sighted, and the circumstances that would usually bring in UN intervention would be the following

1. Endemic persecution of ethnic groups: More white people die at the hands of police than white people. It doesn't mean the police treat black people right, but we are not in Nazi Germany or Bosnia.

2. Endemic corruption which cannot be cast off: The Clinton Foundation, according to an FBI insider (while unrelated to this particular issue), could bring down the government as it spreads almost everywhere. It should be noted that there is much corruption which is not the fault of the United States, and the fault of multi-national and transnational corporations (some of which are not based in the United States), not to mention the banking cartels which are based all over the planet (and I can assure you the UN will never go after them, if they say they will, they are lying).

Back in 1992, Henry Kissinger said that if the UN was sent into LA to restore order, people would be outraged, but in the future we'd be grateful.

The UN has always been a tool of the elites as a form of global government: It's fortunately been fairly weak (mostly due to the unwillingness of nations to surrender their self-determination), but that can always change as Ban Ki-Moon has, in fact said, at least once "We will impose global governance".

While the UN has often appeared as the puppet of the US; the fact is the US has often been the puppet of the banking/global-elites. We've fought a lot of stupid and unnecessary wars on behalf of them and paid dearly.

Anonymous

Any relation to Obama!
He's from kenya so surprise there!!
When do you look at facts!!
Over 3000 blacks killed by blacks in Chicago since 2015 under Obamas administration ! Are you & him going to visit Chicago!!
Obama, sharpton , holder and lynch not to mention Susan rice divided this country by hatred and lies!!!
They support the hate group black lives matter calling for killing of cops & whites. We're are uour on this!
If a groups said the inky good black is a dead black
You would be up in arms!
But it's ok to kill cops & whites!'
Shame on you/ it's groups like you that are destroying this country!! I know of many decent hardworking obeys the law that are black!
They all agree that this is a hate group and will never be held accountable for their actions ! They are above the law & do not have comply with any rules or laws because they are black
Over 3000 blacks kill
Blacks in Chicago since 2015 under Obama administration
Where are you then!! Have you visited Chicago I didn't think so
Your group & the United Nations have shown your real priorities and it not protecting all Americans!
Obama lynch sharpton and Susan rice are the real dividers and should be held accountable for their hatred!
Shame on you for playing politics
Read the real facts of who has the highest percentage of crimes over 80% of blacks commit violent crimes
They refuse to be held countable for their crimes and you make excuses for them!! Shame on you. Your rhetoric fuels the hatred!!
Obama divided this country by hate
And you stand by and let it happen
Your group is nothing more than usual politics and race baiters!!
Shame on you all

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