February 7, 2008
The convention against racial discrimination was the first major human rights treaty signed by the US. Unfortunately, more than 42 years later, the US has failed to uphold its treaty obligations in several important respects.
Alison Parker, deputy director, US Program of Human Rights Watch

The United States has failed to comply with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Subjects detailed in the report include the failure of federal authorities to inform individual states of their obligations under the treaty, the discriminatory treatment of Haitian refugees by the US, and policies that have the effect of denying health care to many African-Americans with HIV/AIDS. In addition, the report presents new data collected by Human Rights Watch demonstrating that racial disparities in the sentencing of children to life in prison without possibility of parole are more pronounced than the US has acknowledged to date.

In the 48-page report, Human Rights Watch documents US noncompliance with ICERD in seven key areas. The treaty, ratified by the United States in 1994, requires member governments to take affirmative steps to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national or ethnic origin in all areas of public life. The Human Rights Watch report was prepared for submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, an international body that monitors and reports on compliance with ICERD. The committee will examine US compliance with ICERD at a session in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 21-22, 2008.

“The convention against racial discrimination was the first major human rights treaty signed by the US,” said Alison Parker, deputy director of the US program at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “Unfortunately, more than 42 years later, the US has failed to uphold its treaty obligations in several important respects.”

The report’s findings include:

    In some US states, African-American youth arrested for murder are at least three times more likely than white youth arrested for murder to receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    African-American and Native American students in US public schools receive corporal punishment at rates significantly higher than white students.

    Haitian refugees seeking admission to the United States are, as a matter of explicit government policy, treated less favorably than are Cuban refugees.

    The non-citizens detained by the US military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are denied the right to judicial review of their detention and to fair trial procedures, rights enjoyed by US citizens.

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