UN committee against torture criticizes US

The UN Committee Against Torture has urged the US (PDF) to begin prompt, impartial investigations into all cases of police brutality and excessive use of force by police officers, and to limit the use of electrical discharge weapons. The committee expressed concern over the use of force against people of "certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants and LGBT individuals, racial profiling by police and immigration offices and growing militarization of policing activities." The committee especially cited reports that the Chicago Police Department has harassed, racially profiled and used excessive force on African American and Latino youths. In particular, the report "expresses its deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals."

The committee also suggested prosecuting all individuals suspected of torture or excessive force and to remedy the victims. Additionally, the report criticized the use of tasers on unarmed individuals for fleeing minor crime scenes, resisting arrest and even on minors. The committee urged the US to limit the use of these weapons to situations where there exists a risk of serious bodily harm or death, and to prohibit their use against children and pregnant women. Other topics examined by the committee's report on the US include counter-terrorism measures, alleged tortures overseas, interrogation techniques, immigrant detention and solitary confinement.

The report, based on conclusions adopted last week by the committee, was published just days after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., decided not to return an indictment against police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in August. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued reports in August charging that use of police force and intimidation tactics to dispel largely nonviolent protesters threatens constitutional freedoms. Last month AI further reported that police in Ferguson committed human rights abuses against peaceful protesters. Five people brought a lawsuit in August against the city of Ferguson and several officials for the use of unnecessary and unwarranted force by St. Louis County Police and Ferguson Police against demonstrators.

From Jurist, Nov. 28. Used with permission.

  1. UN officials: end racial discrimination in US justice system

    The United Nations Office of the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported their concerns on Dec. 5 over the outcome of both the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases. The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak, said: "I am concerned by the grand juries' decisions and the apparent conflicting evidence that exists relating to both incidents." The OHCHR expressed that the trial process would have ensured a fair decision in both cases, and the lack of grand jury indictments gave the appearance of impunity. The OHCHR pointed out that racial profiling in the US impacts African Americans the most, with African Americans ten times more likely to be pulled over by police officers for minor traffic stops than Caucasians. The committee also pointed out the stark economic disparities and the fact that African American community has double the unemployment rate of the white community. They urged US officials to not only abide by President Obama's new policies but end racial profiling by police officers completely and find methods to address the economic disparity. The committee urged citizens to exercise their right to protest in a peaceful law-abiding way and to end any violence.

    From Jurist, Dec. 2. Used with permission.