UN special rapporteur urges US to make sweeping racial justice and law enforcement reforms

A United Nations (UN) special rapporteur has found evidence of rampant racism and human rights abuses during her recently concluded two-week trip to the US.

Members of the Start With Dignity campaign meet with UN special rapporteur Ashwini K.P. during her two-week visit to the United States.
Members of the Start With Dignity campaign meet with UN special rapporteur Ashwini K.P. during her two-week visit to the United States.  © Start With Dignity

"The United States of America is at a critical juncture in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance," UN special rapporteur Ashwini K.P. said in a statement after her visit.

"At such a critical junction, it is vital that the United States Government, including both federal and state authorities, urgently address pervasive hate and stay the course to eliminate systemic racism and racial discrimination," she added.

Ashwini traveled to Washington DC, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Atlanta between October 31 and November 14. During that time, she witnessed firsthand persistent racial disparities across wealth, education, housing, food access, health care outcomes, and migration experiences – all driven by US laws and policies.

Gabby Petito's family comes to legal settlement with Brian Laundrie's parents
Murder Gabby Petito's family comes to legal settlement with Brian Laundrie's parents

The rapporteur also highlighted ongoing racial discrimination in law enforcement and the criminal-legal system. Some of the concerns she raised are:

Ashwini's was the third UN report in less than a year to call for changes to the use of force standard and an end to racial profiling in the US. These demands are also reflected in observations and recommendations released earlier this month by the UN Human Rights Committee.

Pressure mounts for US government officials to act

Members of the Start With Dignity campaign traveled to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in October to testify on personal experiences of racism and unjust treatment by law enforcement.
Members of the Start With Dignity campaign traveled to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in October to testify on personal experiences of racism and unjust treatment by law enforcement.  © Start With Dignity

The latest UN report adds further pressure on federal, state, and local governments to act as communities of color continue to speak out against racist treatment by law enforcement and a disturbing pattern of officer impunity.

Experts estimate that 1 million people are threatened with or subjected to law enforcement use of force each year, with 250,000 suffering injuries as a result.

Meanwhile, over 280 people have died in fatal encounters with border agents since 2010. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported 1,082 use of force incidents over the past fiscal year.

Los Angeles police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork
Law enforcement Los Angeles police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

"With a stroke of a pen, Biden could end racial profiling by CBP in our communities by eliminating the border exception to the administrative prohibition on racial profiling," said Southern Border Communities Coalition director Lilian Serrano in a Start With Dignity press release.

"He could also create a use of force standard for federal officers that complies with international law and protects lives. The question is, when will he?"

"The United States cannot present itself as a leader on human rights when it fails to protect them here at home," added Alliance San Diego Executive Director Andrea Guerrero. "It’s time to bring our laws in line with our international human rights obligations to recognize the inherent dignity of each and every one of us."

Cover photo: Start With Dignity

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