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CONTACT: Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK – In a report made public on May 8th, the United Nations independent expert on racism urged the U.S. to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system and end the practice of sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also called on Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) and create a bipartisan commission to evaluate the on-going fight against racism and the occurrence of re-segregation, especially in housing and education.
Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene made his recommendations after an official visit in June 2008 during which he met with officials from the Departments of Justice, State, Labor and Energy, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, representatives of state and local government, affected community members and non-government organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union.
The following can be attributed to Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program:
"This report is a stark reminder of U.S. achievements and failures to fight racism and protect equality for all. 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 in this country. The government should intensify the enforcement of laws that protect civil and human rights. A good first step would be to work with Congress and local governments to reform and strengthen existing oversight and enforcement mechanisms and provide more resources to enhance investigative powers to review complaints of human rights violations in general and racial and ethnic bias in particular. This administration has pledged to renew the U.S. commitment to human rights at home and abroad. Now we must walk the walk and turn words into action by addressing the ongoing discrimination and injustice that exists here at home."
The following can be attributed to Chandra Bhatnagar, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program:
"Our government invited the U.N. Special Rapporteur to conduct a thorough analysis of racial discrimination in the United States, and now our government should take notice of the widespread and systemic problems that he documented. The report highlights very serious issues including racism in the criminal justice system, and the disparity between sentencing for crack and powder cocaine, serious abuses facing immigrant and African-American workers in the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the overall vulnerability of immigrant workers around the country, and the need to meaningfully address the 'school-to-prison pipeline.' The Obama administration has an opportunity to address all of these important issues and this report offers us a path forward toward justice, equality and human rights for all."
The special rapporteur will present his findings at the next session of the U.N. Human Rights Council next month. On April 27, the U.S. submitted a list of human rights pledges and commandments as part of its bid to join the Council.
The report is available online at: www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/11session/A.HRC.11.36.Add.3.pdf
More information about the ACLU's work with the special rapporteur is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/gen/sr_racism.html