COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
30 July – 17 August 2001
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
380. The Committee considered the initial, second and third periodic reports
of the United States of America (CERD/C/351/Add.1), submitted as one document,
which were due on 20 November 1995, 1997 and 1999 respectively, at its
1474th, 1475th and 1476th meetings (CERD/C/SR.1474-1476), on 3 and 6 August
2001. At its 1486th meeting (CERD/C/SR.1486), on 13 August 2001, it adopted
the following concluding observations.
381. The Committee welcomes the opportunity to initiate its dialogue with
the State party. The Committee was encouraged by the attendance of a high-level
delegation and the professionalism and constructiveness characterizing
382. The Committee welcomes the detailed, frank and comprehensive report
submitted by the State party, the contents of which correspond with the
Committee's revised reporting guidelines, and the fact that the report
was prepared in consultation with non-governmental organizations and other
public interest groups. The additional substantive and comprehensive oral
information provided by the delegation by way of introduction and in response
to the wide range of questions asked by Committee members is also appreciated.
383. In view of the dialogue held, the Committee wishes to emphasize that
irrespective of the relationship between the federal authorities, on the
one hand, and the States, which have extensive jurisdiction and legislative
powers, on the other, with regard to its obligation under the Convention,
the Federal Government has the responsibility to ensure its implementation
on its entire territory.
and difficulties impeding
the implementation of the Convention
384. The Committee notes the persistence of the discriminatory effects
of the legacy of slavery, segregation, and destructive policies with regard
to Native Americans.
385. The Committee notes the acknowledgement by the State party of the
multi-ethnic, multiracial and multicultural nature of American society.
386. The Committee notes that the State party in recent years has ratified
or acceded to certain international human rights treaties, including
Convention, and encourages this development. It further notes Executive
Order 13107 of 10 December 1998 on the Implementation of Human Rights
Treaties, which provides that "it shall be the policy and practice of
the Government of the United States fully to respect and implement its
obligations under the international human rights treaties to which it
is a party", including the Convention.
387. The Committee notes the extensive constitutional and legislative
framework for the effective protection of civil rights in general provided
by the Bill of Rights and federal laws.
388. The Committee welcomes recent measures, including the launching
in 1997 of the "Initiative on Race",
the establishment of the Minority Business Development Agency under
the Department of Commerce in order to redress
racial and ethnic discrimination in the industrial market, as well
as the efforts made to eliminate the practice of racial profiling,
the continuation of such initiatives.
389. The Committee notes as positive the continuous increase in the number
of persons belonging to, in particular, the African-American and Hispanic
communities in fields of employment previously predominantly occupied
by Whites. The Committee particularly welcomes efforts made to promote
the employment of persons from minority groups within the police force.
390. The Committee, concerned by the absence of specific legislation implementing
the provisions of the Convention in domestic laws, recommends that the
State party undertake the necessary measures to ensure the consistent
application of the provisions of the Convention at all levels of government.
391. The Committee emphasizes its concern about the State party's
far-reaching reservations, understandings and declarations entered
at the time of ratification
of the Convention. The Committee is particularly concerned about the
implication of the State party's reservation on the implementation
of article 4 of
the Convention. In this regard the Committee recalls its general recommendations
VII and XV, according to which the prohibition of dissemination
ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred is compatible with the
right to freedom of opinion and expression, given that a citizen's
of this right carries special duties and responsibilities, among which
is the obligation not to disseminate racist ideas. The Committee
that the State party review its legislation in view of the new requirements
of preventing and combating racial discrimination, and adopt regulations
the protection against acts of racial discrimination, in accordance
with article 4 of the Convention.
392. The Committee also notes with concern the position of the State party
with regard to its obligation under article 2, paragraph 1 (c) and (d),
to bring to an end all racial discrimination by any person, group or organization,
that the prohibition and punishment of purely private conduct lie beyond
the scope of governmental regulation, even in situations where the personal
freedom is exercised in a discriminatory manner. The Committee recommends
that the State party review its legislation so as to render liable to
criminal sanctions the largest possible sphere of private conduct which
is discriminatory on racial or ethnic grounds.
393. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its obligations
under the Convention and, in particular, to article 1, paragraph 1, and
general recommendation XIV, to undertake to prohibit and to eliminate
racial discrimination in all its forms, including practices and legislation
that may not be discriminatory in purpose, but in effect. The Committee
recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to review
existing legislation and federal, State and local policies to ensure effective
protection against any form of racial discrimination and any unjustifiably
394. The Committee notes with concern the incidents of police violence
and brutality, including cases of deaths as a result of excessive use
of force by law enforcement officials, which particularly affect minority
groups and foreigners. The Committee recommends that the State party take
immediate and effective measures to ensure the appropriate training of
the police force with a view to combating prejudices which may lead to
racial discrimination and ultimately to a violation of the right to security
of persons. The Committee further recommends that firm action be taken
to punish racially motivated violence and ensure the access of victims
to effective legal remedies and the right to seek just and adequate reparation
for any damage suffered as a result of such actions.
395. The Committee notes with concern that the majority of federal, state
and local prison and jail inmates in the State party are members of ethnic
or national minorities, and that the incarceration rate is particularly
high with regard to African-Americans and Hispanics. The Committee recommends
that the State party take firm action to guarantee the right of everyone,
without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin,
to equal treatment before the courts and all other organs administering
justice. Noting the socio-economic marginalization of a significant part
of the African-American, Hispanic and Arab populations, it is further
recommended that the State party ensure that the high incarceration rate
is not a result of the economically, socially and educationally disadvantaged
position of these groups.
396. The Committee notes with concern that, according to the Special Rapporteur
of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on extrajudicial, summary
or arbitrary executions, there is a disturbing correlation between race,
both of the victim and the defendant, and the imposition of the death
penalty, particularly in states like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana,
Mississippi and Texas. The Committee urges the State party to ensure,
possibly by imposing a moratorium, that no death penalty is imposed as
a result of racial bias on the part of prosecutors, judges, juries and
lawyers or as a result of the economically, socially and educationally
disadvantaged position of the convicted persons.
397. The Committee is concerned about the political disenfranchisement
of a large segment of the ethnic minority population who are denied the
right to vote by disenfranchising laws and practices based on the commission
of more than a certain number of criminal offences, and also sometimes
by preventing them from voting even after the completion of their sentences.
The Committee recalls that the right of everyone to vote on a non-discriminatory
basis is a right contained in article 5 of the Convention.
398. While noting the numerous laws, institutions and measures designed
to eradicate racial discrimination affecting the equal enjoyment of economic,
social and cultural rights, the Committee is concerned about persistent
disparities in the enjoyment of, in particular, the right to adequate
housing, equal opportunities for education and employment, and access
to public and private health care. The Committee recommends that the State
party take all appropriate measures, including special measures according
to article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention, to ensure the right of everyone,
without discrimination as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin,
to the enjoyment of the rights contained in article 5 of the Convention.
399. With regard to affirmative action, the Committee notes with concern
the position taken by the State party that the provisions of the Convention
permit, but do not require States parties to adopt affirmative action
measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain
racial, ethnic or national groups. The Committee emphasizes that the adoption
of special measures by States parties when the circumstances so warrant,
such as in the case of persistent disparities, is an obligation stemming
from article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
400. The Committee notes with concern that treaties signed by the Government
and Indian tribes, described as "domestic dependent nations" under national
law, can be abrogated unilaterally by Congress and that the land they
possess or use can be taken without compensation by a decision of the
Government. It further expresses concern with regard to information on
plans for expanding mining and nuclear waste storage on Western Shoshone
ancestral land, placing their land up for auction for private sale, and
other actions affecting the rights of indigenous peoples. The Committee
recommends that the State party ensure effective participation by indigenous
communities in decisions affecting them, including those on their land
rights, as required under article 5 (c) of the Convention, and draws the
attention of the State party to general recommendation XXIII on indigenous
peoples which stresses the importance of securing the "informed consent" of indigenous communities and calls, inter alia, for recognition
and compensation for loss. The State party is also encouraged to use as
guidance the ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
in Independent Countries.
401. Noting the absence of data regarding racial discrimination in federal
and State prisons and jails, the Committee invites the State party to
provide, in its next report, information and statistics on complaints
and subsequent action taken in this field.
402. Having noted the establishment under Executive Order 13107 of
10 December 1998 of the Interagency Working Group with the task of
the awareness of United States federal agencies about the rights and
obligations provided by the Convention, the International Covenant
on Civil and Political
Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Punishment or Treatment, the Committee invites the State
to provide in its next report further information on the powers of
the Working Group and the impact of its activities. In this context,
also notes that the present State party report primarily focuses on
the implementation of the Convention at the federal level and recommends
the next periodic report contain comprehensive information on its implementation
of the State and local levels and in all territories under United States
Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern
403. The Committee further recommends that the next State party report
contain socio-economic data, disaggregated by race, ethnic origin and
gender, on, in particular: (a) the indigenous and Arab-American population;
and (b) the populations of the States of Alaska and Hawaii.
404. It is noted that the State party has not made the optional declaration
provided for in article 14 of the Convention, and the Committee recommends
that the possibility of such a declaration be considered.
405. The Committee recommends that the State party ratify the amendments
to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, adopted on 15 January 1992
at the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention.
406. The Committee recommends that the State party's reports continue
to be made readily available to the public from the time they are submitted
and that the Committee's observations on them be similarly publicized.
407. The Committee recommends that the State party submit its fourth periodic
report jointly with its fifth periodic report, due on 20 November 2003,
and that it address all points raised in the present observations.