• Despite a commitment to equal justice for all, public officials in the United States have instituted policies that either by purpose or effect discriminate unjustly on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. Such discrimination violates internationally protected rights. In the criminal justice arena, public officials also abuse their discretion by overstepping their authority, or by instituting policies that undermine the rule of law and deny justice to all parties, including victims of crime, witnesses, and the accused.

  • An outreach team from Unity Of Greater New Orleans counsels a homeless man on housing options, January 2011.
    (New York) – Louisiana state laws and practices that prohibit access to sterile syringes and criminalize sex work contribute to an uncontrolled HIV epidemic and an extremely high AIDS death rate, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The AIDS death rate in Louisiana is more than double the US average. New Orleans police regularly interfere with sex workers who carry condoms, putting them and their clients at risk of HIV.


Discrimination and Abuse of Discretion

  • Mar 17, 2015
    “They’ll stop them just for being black,” a 39-year-old African American woman named Holly told me last August, describing how police in and around her home town of Ferguson, Missouri, treated young black men. “I’ve actually stood there and watched cousins of mine get pulled over. [The police] would sit them down, pat them down, even after they knew they had the wrong person. I have so many of those stories.”
  • Mar 12, 2015
  • Feb 19, 2015
    Florida legislators should approve Senate Bill 1082, which would allow judges rather than prosecutors to decide when to prosecute a child as an adult. If enacted, the proposed law would greatly reduce the number of children prosecuted in Florida’s adult courts.
  • Dec 9, 2014
    Human Rights Watch submits the following statement to the Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on current human rights challenges facing the United States, and how Congress should address them.
  • Dec 8, 2014
    The US Department of Justice long-awaited reforms to its rules on racial profiling still permit discriminatory practices against minority groups and migrants. However, the new guidance allows community profiling and profiling in US border areas.
  • Dec 3, 2014
    News outlets have recently reported that the Department of Justice will release new guidance on the use of racial profiling by federal law enforcement officers shortly. Human Rights Watch wrote to US Attorney General Holder and urged him to ensure the new guidance abolishes exemptions for national security and border integrity operations and that it covers all federal law enforcement agencies.
  • Nov 19, 2014
    Law enforcement agencies in Ferguson, Missouri should respect the public’s right to peaceful protest following the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case. In the event of renewed protests, police should permit peaceful assembly and expression, refrain from using excessive force, and conduct operations with transparency and accountability.
  • Nov 11, 2014
    The New York City Police Department’s plans, reported on November 10, 2014, to cease arresting people found with small amounts of marijuana will make an important difference in the lives of thousands of people every year. Police officers will instead issue tickets for such offenses.
  • Oct 27, 2014
    I write to follow up on my September 9, 2014 letter to you on behalf of Human Rights Watch, in which we urged that the state of Missouri undertake a comprehensive review of law enforcement responses to the protests that began on August 9 in Ferguson. Your recent announcement of the creation of the Ferguson Commission, a panel charged with studying the “the social and economic conditions underscored by the unrest in the wake of the death of Michael Brown,” left unclear whether the panel will address the many outstanding and serious questions about the police response to the protests.
  • Oct 10, 2014
    New York State's top corrections official said this week that he supports moving all adolescent inmates off Rikers Island. His statement raises hopes for an end to what the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a scathing recent report, called a "deep-seated culture of violence" against youth in the United States' second-largest jail, where the vast majority of inmates are adults.