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UN Committee To Question U.S. Government On Human Rights Record
NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union will be in Geneva this week to testify before the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on the contents of a flawed U.S. government report that underreported the state of racial discrimination in the United States. In December 2007, the ACLU released a responsive independent shadow report highlighting the pervasive institutional, systemic and structural racism in America. The U.N. committee reviewed the ACLU and other NGOs' reports before determining what questions it will ask the U.S. government at this week's hearings.
"The United States can no longer deny the real problems of racial discrimination, from racial profiling to unequal access to educational opportunities, that are happening right here at home," said Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "The eyes of the world will be on the United States during the hearings in Geneva. It is time for our government to address the persistent structural racism and inequality occurring in this country and to begin to look for solutions."
Also testifying before the committee, on Monday, February 18, will beAkif Rahman, a native-born United States citizen and victim of post-9/11 racial profiling who has been detained, questioned and abused by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on five separate occasions as he re-entered the country after business or personal trips abroad. The ACLU brought a 2005 lawsuit on Rahman's behalf seeking to end this unjustified practice.
The U.S. government submitted its report in April 2007 to the CERD committee, an independent group of internationally recognized human rights experts that oversees compliance with the international treaty on the elimination of racial discrimination that was ratified by the U.S. in 1994. The treaty requires countries to review national, state and local policies and to amend or repeal laws and regulations that create or perpetuate racial discrimination. The committee will question the U.S. delegation to the CERD hearings, including Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, on Thursday, February 21, and Friday, February 22.
The ACLU has criticized the government's report for its major shortcomings, including only minor mention of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the outright omission of issues including the dramatic increase in anti-immigrant acts and practices, exploitation of migrant workers, the escalating problem of police brutality and racial profiling, and the "school to prison pipeline," whereby the criminal justice system overzealously funnels students of color out of classrooms and on a path toward prison.
"The United States has consistently failed to level with the international community about its human rights record and the racial injustices happening in its own backyard," said Jamil Dakwar, Advocacy Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The hearings in Geneva offer another chance to set the record straight so that the U.S. can begin to fulfill its obligation to end racial inequality and uphold human rights."
In addition to Parker and Dakwar, Lenora Lapidus, Laleh Ispahani and Chandra Bhatnagar of the national ACLU, as well as representatives of ACLU affiliates from Illinois, California, Texas and Louisiana will attend the hearings in Geneva.
The ACLU's shadow report and executive summary are available online at: www.aclu.org/cerd