• 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.

Reports

Discrimination and Abuse of Discretion

  • 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.
  • Aug 14, 2014
    Protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly African-American suburb north of St. Louis, after a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.
  • Jul 25, 2014
    The United States has failed to comply with key protections under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Human Rights Watch said today. The US, which ratified the treaty in 1994, will appear before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for a periodic review of its record on August 13 and 14, 2014, in Geneva.
  • Jul 21, 2014
    The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.
  • Jun 13, 2014
    Hopes are high that the U.S. Congress will do the right thing this year and reform notoriously harsh federal drug sentencing laws that have crammed U.S. prisons with small-time offenders.
  • May 26, 2014
    "Unjust and wrong” is how mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio described the New York Police Department’s crusade against low-level marijuana users.
  • May 5, 2014
    Far too many US laws violate basic principles of justice by requiring disproportionately severe punishment, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
  • Apr 21, 2014
    In light of recent reports that the Department of Justice is planning to expand its definition of prohibited racial profiling, Human Rights Watch writes to US Attorney General Holder to urge him to also end community mapping programs that propagate discriminatory profiling.