In its first review of the U.S. justice system since 2006, a United Nations committee has cited a long list of transgressions against international standards of human rights, from the use of water-boarding on terrorist suspects to shackling pregnant inmates in prisons, and the racially-charged police brutality on American streets.
The 16-page report, listing the concerns and recommendations of the U.N Committee against Torture, was released Friday after two days of hearings in Geneva earlier in November. The panel monitors member-states’ compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In the case of the US, “there are numerous areas where there are things that should be changed to be fully compliant,” according to one of its members, Alessio Bruni.
Specifically, a whopping 30 areas.
The findings were announced on Black Friday, when many Americans were shaking off their food comas to grab their shopping carts, while others were boycotting the big shopping day, remembering Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this year.
The document makes no specific mention of the events in Ferguson, but it details reports of police brutality in Chicago. The committee writes that it “is concerned about numerous reports of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular against persons belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups, immigrants and LGBTI individuals.”
The 10 independent experts on the panel worry about racial profiling and the increasing police militarization in the country.
Jared Keller writes at Mic that in the eyes of the UN, an organization that determines and monitors “the standard for human dignity and decency,” police brutality in the US “is cruel and unusual punishment, the equivalent of torture.”
The brunt of the report focuses on torture in the traditional sense of the word, or “enhanced interrogation techniques” of the Bush era. The panel is “deeply concerned” with keeping multiple detainees in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison without pressing charges.
The document’s tone is one of reprimand, especially in reference to reports of the CIA’s extraordinary-rendition program, where the committee reminds the U.S. of the “absolute prohibition of torture” in the U.N. convention.
Not shying away from some of the most pressing and overwhelming issues plaguing the U.S. criminal-justice system, the committee condemns the treatment of juveniles, with particular attention to rules that enable sentencing a minor to life without parole. It calls for these laws to be abolished, “irrespective of the crime committed.” The U.S. is one of three countries in the world, along with Somalia and South Sudan, that have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates that parties should have a minimum age for criminal prosecution.
Other issues raised in the report include prison conditions, the death penalty, and the migration crisis on the southern border of the U.S. The panel commends the U.S. for some improvements, among others President Obama’s commitment to ban torture.
But the positive developments get lost among the concern, mentioned 54 times throughout the document.