HRC 29th Session: Item 9 General Debate

Item 9 General Debate: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
UN Human Rights Council – 29th Session
Geneva – June 30, 2015

Thank you, Mr. President.

The tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17 highlights the imperative to eliminate racism and racial discrimination.  As President Obama said following the Charleston shooting, “hatred across races and faiths poses a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”  Racism and racial discrimination are a scourge that we all must commit ourselves to end.

Moreover, in recent months, events in Baltimore, Maryland, and other U.S. cities have drawn considerable debate about the use of force by law enforcement.  This is not a new problem, but the recent cases have rightly focused our nation’s attention on this important issue, especially as it relates to racial discrimination.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened numerous civil rights investigations into police departments that may have engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of their rights.  In addition, DOJ has obtained more than 250 criminal convictions against police officers in the past five years.

In May, DOJ announced an agreement with the City of Cleveland to reform the city’s police department after finding a pattern of using excessive force.

In Baltimore, as in all cases, the United States is committed to a fair, independent investigation of allegations of police misconduct and to taking action when warranted.  Following the death of Freddie Gray, DOJ announced a civil rights investigation into Baltimore’s Police Department’s practices, focusing on the use of force; stops, searches, and arrests; and whether there is a pattern of discriminatory policing.  The FBI is also conducting an investigation of Gray’s death.

More broadly, President Obama appointed a Task Force on 21st Century Policing that made recommendations on how to help build trust between communities and law enforcement while maintaining public safety.  The Administration is working with police departments and community leaders to implement recommendations from the Task Force, such as adopting new technologies and prioritizing de-escalation.

We also see our work as part of our effort to promote racial and ethnic equality to mark the International Decade for People of African Descent. In doing so, we recognize the common challenges faced by people of African descent in the U.S. and all over the world.  The Decade is an opportunity to encourage positive domestic discourse on U.S. civil rights, highlight the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, and respond to the tragic incidents in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore.  Our engagement on this important issue can contribute to rebuilding a culture of trust that is needed to promote safety and justice in every community and for every individual, no matter who they are.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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