U.N. review of human rights in U.S. focuses on police brutality

By Andrew V. Pestano

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 11 (UPI) -- The United States defended its human rights record before a council of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, but recognized progress needs to be made.

The U.S. delegation, led by Keith Harper, representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council, and Principal Deputy Legal Adviser Mary McLeod, is expected to face questions about human rights at the Universal Periodic Review, some stemming from the deaths of unarmed African-Americans.


"We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to their promise," James Cadogan, senior counselor in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, said Monday. "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... challenged us to do better and to work harder for progress."

The U.N. council turned its attention to the human rights record of the United States after ongoing racial tension due to deaths of black men by police officers accused of excessive use of force.


"When federal, state, local or tribal officials willfully use excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution or federal law, we have authority to prosecute them," Cadogan added.

All U.N. members must take part of the Universal Periodic Review every four years. The United States is also expected to face questions on its widespread incarceration of illegal immigrants, including children, the death penalty and use of long-term solitary confinement in prisons.

The United States underwent its first review in 2010, but activists argue that the country has done little to carry out 171 recommendations it accepted out of 240 from the review board.

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"The U.S. has little progress to show for the many commitments it made during its first Universal Periodic Review," U.S. advocacy director at Human Rights Watch Antonio Ginatta told VOA News.

Protests were seen in Baltimore, Md., Ferguson, Mo., and across the country after the deaths of Gray and Brown.

Brown's death was ruled as justified but Gray's was considered a homicide, leading to the arrest of six Baltimore police officers.

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recently announced the city's police department will be equipped with body cameras for its officers by the end of next year.


The Justice Department is investigating police practices in Baltimore.

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