News / USA

    UN Grills US on Police Brutality, Racial Bias

    People march under a banner that reads "Stop Racist Police Terror," Baltimore, Maryland, May 2, 2015. (R. Muntu/VOA)
    People march under a banner that reads "Stop Racist Police Terror," Baltimore, Maryland, May 2, 2015. (R. Muntu/VOA)
    Lisa Schlein

    The United States has mounted a vigorous defense of Washington’s pursuit of justice for all its citizens at a United Nations public hearing to examine the U.S.'s human rights record.  Representatives from 117 countries questioned the U.S. on issues including police brutality, racism and torture during the half-day hearing held by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    The U.S. was represented at the hearing by a large legal team fielding questions and sharp criticism from U.N. member states about the U.S. human rights record.  The most persistent observations and expressions of disapproval had to do with alleged discriminatory practices against racial minorities and the excessive use of force by law enforcement.

    The U.S. delegation said it was proud of the country's human rights record, but admitted the record was not spotless.  It fell to James Cadogan, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice, to explain several controversial cases involving police and minorities, including the fatal shooting last year of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  The police officer who shot and killed the African-American teenager was not indicted.

    Cadogan, who works in the Civil Rights Division, said the Department of Justice investigates and brings civil actions to change unlawful or discriminatory policing policies when systemic problems emerge.

    “For instance, in March, we released a report finding that the police department of Ferguson, Missouri, engaged in a pattern or practice of racially discriminatory policing.  Furthermore, we have opened more than 20 investigations in the last six years - including an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department announced on Friday.  And, we are currently enforcing 16 landmark agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies,” said Cadogan.  

    The investigation in Baltimore, Maryland, follows the death of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody.  Six officers in this case have been charged in his death.

    Aggrieved expect no change

    People who say they were victims of racial discrimination and attended the hearing were not satisfied with U.S. assurances it was doing its best to eliminate excessive use of force and discriminatory practices in the country’s police forces.

    One person presented testimony on the sidelines of the meeting about the suffering he said he and his family endured following the fatal police shooting of his sister.  An off-duty Chicago police officer fatally shot Martinez Sutton’s sister, Rekia Boyd, on March 21, 2012, while she was in a park with friends.

    The police officer who shot Boyd was acquitted three weeks ago in what civil rights lawyers call a flawed trial.  Sutton told VOA he does not expect that anything will change following the uproar over Michael Brown or Freddie Gray.

    “I came here to raise awareness about this issue as I have been doing for three years.  I have been going around asking for help… I do not expect them to do anything because - I mean: Let us be real, it has been going on for years and what has been done?  As I stated before, they say the guilty should be punished.  I want them to show us instead of tell us,” said Sutton.  

    Countries participating in the debate proposed a number of recommendations to the U.S.  These included calls for the U.S. to abolish capital punishment, close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, prevent acts of torture, eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and combat violence against women.  

    The U.N. public hearing is part of the so-called Universal Periodic Review, which all 193 U.N. member countries must undergo every four years.  This is the second time the United States' record has been examined under this procedure.  A U.N. report on the review and recommendations are scheduled to be adopted Friday.

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora