Special Rapporteur Presents Findings Before U.N. Human Rights Council

NEW YORK – The United Nations special rapporteur on racism offered recommendations for the United States to address ongoing issues of discrimination in a presentation before the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) today. At the invitation of the United States government, former special rapporteur Doudou Diene toured the United States in May and June 2008 to conduct an analysis of ongoing racism and ethnic discrimination. Today, current special rapporteur Githu Muigai presented Diene’s findings. This is the first session of the UNHRC in which the U.S. is participating as a member.

"For the U.S. to lead by example, it should heed the recommendations of this international expert and do more to address ongoing issues of racism and ethnic discrimination in this country,” said Chandra Bhatnagar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Program. “This report offers the Obama administration a path forward toward justice, equality and human rights for all."

UNWhile in the United States, the special rapporteur met with representatives of the ACLU and other non-governmental organizations, government officials, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and members of local communities. The resulting report highlights racism in the criminal justice system, the disparity between sentencing for crack and powder cocaine, abuses facing immigrant and African-American workers in the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the overall vulnerability of immigrant workers and the need to meaningfully address the “school-to-prison pipeline.” The report also calls on Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) and create a bipartisan commission to evaluate the on-going fight against racism.

“The special rapporteur’s visits in Los Angeles with Arab, Sikh, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Native American communities, and his review of the ACLU’s recent report on racial profiling at the Los Angeles Police Department, helped to inform his conclusions about the ongoing and urgent need for racial justice reform in this country,” said Catherine Lhamon, racial justice director for the ACLU of Southern California. “We hope this report will push us locally and as a nation to take concrete steps toward creating meaningful justice for all Americans.”

“Mr. Diene’s report highlights the persistence of racism in the U.S. It focuses on many issues that permeate the lives of so many people who live and work in Florida, including racial profiling, the lack of legal protections for immigrant workers, the housing crisis and homelessness, and the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon,” said Muslima Lewis, director of the ACLU of Florida’s Racial Justice Project. “We are hopeful that the recommendations in this report will be the impetus for meaningful and systemic racial justice reform in Miami, Florida and the entire country."