Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Aug17/06)
30 August 2017
Third World Network
Rights: UN body criticises US failure to condemn recent racist violent
Published in SUNS #8522 dated 29 August 2017
Geneva, 28 Aug (Kanaga Raja) -- A key United Nations body has called
upon the government of the United States, including its high-level
politicians and public officials, to unequivocally and unconditionally
reject and condemn racist hate speech and racist crimes in Charlottesville
and throughout the country.
The call was made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination, which monitors the implementation of the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
by its States parties.
The Committee held its ninety-third session here from 31 July to 25
The US had ratified the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination back in 1994.
In a decision issued under its "Early Warning and Urgent Action
Procedures", the Committee, composed of independent human rights
experts, pointed to the "horrific events" that took place
in Charlottesville, Virginia on 11-12 August 2017 leading to the death
of Ms. Heather Heyer, and the injuries inflicted on many other protestors,
as well as the terrible beating of Mr. Deandre Harris by white supremacists.
"We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist
slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and
the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination
and hatred," said Ms Anastasia Crickley, the Committee Chairperson,
in a UN news release.
"We call on the US Government to investigate thoroughly the phenomenon
of racial discrimination targeting, in particular, people of African
descent, ethnic or ethno-religious minorities, and migrants,"
In its decision, the Committee said that it was disturbed by the failure
at the highest political level of the United States (government) to
unequivocally reject and condemn the racist violent events and demonstrations
led by the aforementioned groups, thereby potentially fuelling the
proliferation of racist discourse and incidents throughout the United
It was deeply concerned by the example this failure could set for
the rest of the world.
The Committee noted the criminal investigation launched against, and
the ongoing prosecution of, the individual implicated in the ploughing
of his car into the crowd of peaceful protestors which led to the
death of Ms. Heyer.
It emphasised that there should be no place in the world for racist
white supremacist ideas or any similar ideologies that reject the
core human rights principles of human dignity and equality and seek
to degrade the standing of individuals and groups on the grounds of
race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.
The Committee called upon the United States to fully respect its international
obligations and in particular those arising from the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
to combat and eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
It urged the United States to ensure that all human rights violations
which took place in Charlottesville, in particular with regards the
death of Ms. Heyer, are thoroughly investigated, alleged perpetrators
prosecuted and if convicted, punished with sanctions commensurate
with the gravity of the crime, and provide effective remedies to victims
and their families.
The Committee recommended that the Government of the United States
identify and take concrete measures to address the root causes of
the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate
the phenomenon of racial discrimination targeting in particular people
of African descent, ethnic or ethno-religious minorities, and migrants.
It recommended that the United States ensure that the rights to freedom
of expression, association and peaceful assembly are not exercised
with the aim of destroying or denying the rights and freedoms of others,
especially the right to equality and non-discrimination.
It further recommended that the Government of the United States provide
the necessary guarantees so that such rights are not misused to promote
racist hate speech and racist crimes.
Earlier, on 16 August, a joint statement was issued by a group of
UN human rights experts in the wake of the far-right demonstrations
and violence in Charlottesville.
"We are outraged by the violence in Charlottesville and the racial
hatred displayed by right-wing extremists, white supremacists and
neo-Nazi groups," said the experts in the joint statement.
"We view these events as the latest examples of increasing racism,
racial discrimination, Afro-phobia, racist violence and xenophobia
observed in demonstrations across the USA," they added.
The rights experts are Mr. Sabelo Gumedze, Chairperson of the Working
Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Mr. Mutuma Ruteere,
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and related intolerance; and Ms. Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson
of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
"We are deeply concerned at the proliferation and increasing
prominence of organized hate and racist groups. Acts of hatred and
racist hate speech must be unequivocally condemned. Hate crimes must
be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted," said the UN
"We call upon the US Government and State authorities to adopt
effective policies as a matter of priority, to urgently tackle the
manifestations of incitement to racial violence, and to understand
how they affect social cohesion."
"The government must be vigilant in combating all acts of racism,
xenophobia and racist violence, wherever they occur. Recent incidents
in California, Oregon, New Orleans and Kentucky, as well as Charlottesville,
demonstrate the geographical spread of the problem," the experts
According to a UN news release, noting that the far-right demonstrators
in Charlottesville had chanted anti- Black, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant
slogans, the rights experts said it was of critical importance for
those who had committed racist crimes or violence to be held to account.
"We call for the prosecution and adequate punishment of all perpetrators
and the prompt establishment of an independent investigation into
the events," they underlined.
[Since the incidents at Charlottesville, US President Donald Trump
has been issuing some controversial and contradictory statements and
remarks - some equating the actions of white supremacists and those
opposing it there - while other remarks of his came out condemning
[These equivocal and contradictory remarks, as well as his pardoning
of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has resulted in prominent members
of his administration either criticising the president or distancing
themselves from his remarks and actions.
[Arpaio has been found guilty of contempt of court over ignoring US
Federal court orders against racial profiling and arresting Latino-Americans
indiscriminately and holding them in inhuman conditions and was awaiting
[According to media reports, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson,
appearing on a Sunday programme of Fox News, responded to the UN statement
that there had been "failure at the highest political level"
to condemn the racism witnessed in the Virginia city over two weeks
[Tillerson told Fox News that the State Department always expressed
American values. Pressed on whether he was distancing himself from
his boss, Mr Tillerson said he had made his own comments about values
in a recent speech - in which he had said the US should protect freedom
of speech but condemn racism, while adding that those who embrace
hate speech "damage the very country they claim to love".
[In an administration where key members seemed to be frequently expressing
themselves contrary to the president, at least two other prominent
members of the Trump administration seemed to differ and distance
themselves from Trump's remarks and actions, but without mentioning
[Two days earlier, Gary Cohn, the White House National Economic Council
Director, in an interview to the Financial Times, seemed to be indirectly
rebuking the president, by saying that the Trump administration "must
do better" in condemning neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other
[Separately, James Mattis, US Secretary of Defence, during a meeting
with US troops in Jordan, also made comments on divisions in America.
Calling the troops "tough hombres", Mattis told them that
America has "some problems", and urged them to "hold
the line ... until our country gets back to understanding and respecting
[In some very sharp comments in his weekly column in the New York
Times on 28 August, economics Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman also focussed
on the pardon of Arpaio and the failure of most Republican leaders
to condemn it, and viewed it as part of "Fascism, American style".