U.N. Human Rights Committee Demands Effective Investigations of Border Patrol Excessive Use of Force Deaths

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
March 27, 2014 12:00 am

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Today the U.N. Human Rights Committee demanded improved reporting and effective investigations of excessive use-of-force cases by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a review of the nation’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

“We are encouraged by the enhanced scrutiny demanded by this international rights body,” says Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the Regional Center for Border Rights at the ACLU of New Mexico. “The families of many of the victims have sought transparent investigations for many years and deserve justice and closure.”

The ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to participate as a member of civil society in the U.S. review under the ICCPR, March 13-14. In collaboration with the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the RCBR has tracked use of force incidents and advocated for more accountability and oversight of Customs and Border Protection officials.

Since January 2010, there have been at least 27 deaths as the result of CBP officials using lethal force on both the U.S.-Canada and the U.S.-Mexico borders. (A 28th death was the result of failure to provide timely, adequate medical attention to an individual held in CBP custody).

Of the 27 cases, seven were minors and at least 10 were U.S. citizens. Six were also Mexican nationals standing in Mexico when killed, three of whom were teen-agers, ages 15, 16, and 17. One person was a U.S. citizen mother of five who was shot and killed by an agent who refused to step out of the way of the car she was driving.

During its review, the U.S. pointed to an important directive Chief of the Border Patrol Michael Fisher issued to agents on March 7, 2014.

“The directive, a first step, falls dramatically short of bringing the Border Patrol in line with the highest professional law enforcement standards,” added Ms. Gaubeca. “We need transparency regarding recommendations made to CBP by independent experts as well the reforms being considered to guarantee thorough investigation into incidents, greater public accountability, and improved oversight. Our nation’s largest law enforcement agency, CBP, should see this as an opportunity for comprehensive reform if they’re serious about preventing further unnecessary deaths and injuries.”

Advance, unedited concluding observations of the ICCPR review can be found here.

Excerpt of related section of the concluding observations:

Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials

11. The Committee is concerned about the still high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces, including, for instance, in Chicago, and reports of excessive use of force by certain law enforcement officers including the deadly use of tasers, which have a disparate impact on African Americans, and use of lethal force by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the U.S.-Mexico border (arts. 2, 6, 7, and 26).

The State Party should (a) step up its efforts to prevent the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers by ensuring compliance with the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officers; (b) ensure that the new CBP directive on use of deadly force is applied and enforced in practice; and (c) improve reporting of excessive use of force violations and ensure that reported cases of excessive use of force are effectively investigated, alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, that investigations are re-opened when new evidence becomes available, and that victims or their families are provided with adequate compensation.

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