Fourth Annual ACLU Congress On Civil Liberties In Puerto Rico Begins Today

May 1, 2008 12:00 am

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Family Members And Victims Of Police Brutality To Address Workshop Attendees

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MIRAMAR, PR – Victims of some of the worst cases of police brutality in United States history will join the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Puerto Rico to address issues of police brutality and racial discrimination at the Fourth Annual Congress on Civil Liberties in Puerto Rico beginning today.

“In light of what seems to be an ongoing systemic problem with policing in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, this year’s ACLU workshop will examine the ongoing plague of police violence against mostly unarmed young men of color and indigent homeless,” said William Ramírez, Executive Director of the ACLU of Puerto Rico. “In Puerto Rico, the government continues to insist, in case after case of violent police behavior, that each case is an isolated incident perpetrated by a few rotten apples, and refuses to recognize that there are systemic failings that must be aggressively attacked.”

Abner Louima, a Haitian native who, while living in New York City, was the victim of one of the worst cases of non-fatal police brutality in U.S. history, and Iris Baéz, who witnessed the killing by asphyxiation of her son at the hands of a police officer, will address workshop attendees. Other speakers include human rights experts, activists, and attorneys.

“In the wake of the Sean Bell case and countless other instances of police brutality, we continue to be reminded that the U.S. government has been fundamentally unwilling or unable to hold human rights abusers accountable,” said Chandra Bhatnagar, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “It is time to reinforce the fundamental principle that human rights begin at home.”

The ACLU workshop is in anticipation of a visit later this month to the U.S. by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism, Doudou Diène. Diène will tour the U.S., including Puerto Rico, at the request of the government to study and report on forms of racism and racial discrimination.

The ACLU Human Rights Program submitted a December 2007 report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) highlighting systemic and structural racism in America, including police brutality, and testified before the committee in February 2008. In March, the committee recommended that the U.S. “increase significantly its efforts to eliminate police brutality and excessive use of force against persons belonging to racial, ethnic or national minorities.”

More information about the Congress on Civil Liberties in Puerto Rico is available online at:

More information about the ACLU’s report to CERD is available online at:

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