Human rights groups criticize Bush report on racial discrimination

A coalition of human rights groups is calling the Bush administration's report submitted yesterday to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination grossly inadequate and full of omissions.

In a press statement the coalition of groups stated:
Instead of reporting on its implementation of recommendations issued by the Committee a year ago, the government yesterday submitted a report that attempts to whitewash the ongoing racial discrimination suffered by people of color in the United States.
The Committee is an independent group of experts that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which the U.S. signed and ratified in 1994. In March 2008, the Committee issued a strongly worded critique of the U.S. record on racial discrimination and recommendations for U.S. compliance with the CERD treaty.

The human rights coalition argues that the Bush administration's last-minute report to the Committee glosses over significant issues of racial inequality during his tenure, including the post-9/11 racial profiling of Muslims and people of Arab and South Asian descent, the denial of adequate housing assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the racially disparate sentencing of African American and Latino juveniles to life sentences without parole.

"Instead of assisting people to return home and recover as recommended by the UN committee, the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina is driving African Americans out of our communities in violation of our human rights to non-discrimination and adequate housing," Monique Harden, the co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans said in a press statement. "The Bush administration is delusional if it thinks that people of color in the Gulf region believe we've been helped by FEMA or any other federal agency."

Facing South has reported on the failed federal response to the crisis on the Gulf Coast, a response that has only exacerbated displacement and left tens of thousands of poor people -- disproportionately African-American -- unable to return home to New Orleans. The displacement is now expected to be permanent because there is a shortage of affordable housing and no plan to create affordable rental housing.

Advocates are calling on a new administration under President-elect Obama to take action to ensure racial equality by fulfilling the requirements of the CERD treaty, and they hope to work with the new administration to submit a corrected report and a plan of action for implementing the recommendations of the UN committee.

The Bush administration's final report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination can be viewed online here. The Committee's recommendations to the U.S. are available here. A U.S. Human Rights Network shadow report to the Committee on the state of racial discrimination in the U.S. and other relevant documents can be found online here.