NEW YORK — The Biden administration this week submitted a report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The periodic report was due in November 2017, but the Trump administration failed to submit a report as part of a broader disengagement from international human rights bodies. 

While the submission of the report and the administration's commitment to reengage with international human rights bodies are very welcome steps, overall the report represents a missed opportunity to address the gaps between U.S. laws and policies and international human rights standards on combating racial discmrinaiton. 

And while the report responds directly to detailed recommendations made in 2014 by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, it fails to comprehensively address serious human rights violations and systemic racism impacting millions of people in the United States especially Black and Brown communities and Indigenous Peoples. The report was prepared and submitted without any meaningful consultation with state and local governments, civil society organizations, or directly impacted communities.  

The report ignores serious matters with grave importance to the elimination of racial discrimination, including the devastating effects of mass incarceration, the racist war on drugs, the rise of white supremacist violence, and the violent suppression of protests in the United States. It also fails to comprehensively and thoroughly address police violence and systemic racism, includes few details on the nearly 1,000 people killed by police annually, and does not devote serious attention to racial justice issues impacting Puerto Rico and statehood for D.C. While the report mentions the Biden administration’s support for abolishing the death penalty, it fails to acknowledge the existence of racial disparities in the imposition of the penalty.

“The Biden administration squandered its first big opportunity to present a fresh blueprint for meeting U.S. human rights obligations and break from and condemn the racist policies of the Trump administration, which made clear its disdain for international human rights norms and the rule of law,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program. “Reengagment with the global community on human rights requires acknowledging U.S. policy failures and committing to take bold action at home and abroad to advance racial justice and eliminate systemic racism.”

It’s particularly disappointing that the Biden administration once again rejected the idea of creating a National Human Rights Institution as an independent monitoring body or even adopting a national plan of action to implement our international human rights obligations, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the United States ratified in 1994. The ACLU will prepare a full analysis and response to the report and will work with other partner organizations and directly impacted communities to provide additional information and critical alternative analysis to the U.N. committee before the report is formally reviewed sometime next year. 

The report does, however, outline new policies that the Biden administration has implemented that represent a break from the previous administration, including ending the Muslim ban despite the failure to provide relief to those harmed by the ban, like diversity visa winners; committing to reunifiying families separated by the Trump administration; and repealing Trump-era policies related to housing discrimination, addressing hate crimes, and reining in abuses in immigration enforcement.

The Biden administration’s report to the U.N. committee is here: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CERD%2fC%2fUSA%2f10-12&Lang=en

 

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