In a searing indictment from the UN Human Rights Council this Monday, the United States was slammed for its record of police violence and racial discrimination.
During the discussion on Monday, country after country demanded that the U.S. strengthen civil rights laws and focus on training to eliminate systemic racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement, according to Al Jazeera.
“I’m not surprised that the world’s eyes are focused on police issues in the U.S.,” said Alba Morales, who investigates the U.S. criminal justice system at Human Rights Watch.
“There is an international spotlight that’s been shone [on the issues], in large part due to the events in Ferguson and the disproportionate police response to even peaceful protesters,” she added.
According to Al Jazeera, James Cadogan, a senior counselor to the U.S. assistant attorney general, told delegates gathered in Geneva:
“The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a long-standing and critical national debate about the even-handed administration of justice. These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress — through both dialogue and action.”
This prompted Morales to add that the U.S. could do much more than it’s currently doing.
“Use of excessive force by police was a major part of this year’s UPR, and the fact that we still don’t have a reliable national figure to know how many people are killed by police or what the racial breakdown is of those people is a travesty,” she said. “A nation as advanced as the U.S. should be able to gather that number.”
But according to the human rights group Freedom House, repressive regimes who have council membership and can weaken the effectiveness of the council, with many perceiving it hypocritical for countries that are guilty of frequent human rights abuses to criticize other member states.
“Obviously, everybody has improvements they can make to their human rights record. We do believe that everybody from the most powerful country on down should be called to task on their rights records, and we value the opportunity to do so,” said Morales.
“We like to focus on the substance of the comments rather than the source of them.”