UN urges US crackdown of police brutality


The United Nations Committee Against Torture criticized the United States in a report Friday for a pattern of police brutality and excessive force against racial and ethnic minorities across the country.

It raised concern about racial profiling and the growing militarization of police activities, topics that became prominent this summer during riots in Ferguson, Mo., protesting the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

The report does not specifically address Michael Brown’s death, which caused new unrest this week after a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot him.

Speaking Friday at a press conference in Geneva, Alessio Bruni, one of the U.N. panel’s investigators, called Brown’s death a “tragedy” but said his committee would respect the decision not to put Wilson on trial, according to CNN. 

Brown’s parents traveled to Switzerland to testify before the committee earlier this month.

Bruni called on the United States to adopt reforms to come into full compliance with the 1987 U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the Senate ratified in 1994.

The report singles out the Chicago Police Department for “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.” It also criticizes Chicago’s police for frequent profiling and harassment of young African Americans and Latinos.

It notes that no Chicago police officer has been convicted for what it termed “acts of torture” and that the mostly African-American victims have not received any compensation.

The committee raises alarm over the widespread use of tasers by police forces, which has resulted in deaths in places such as Miami Beach, Florida, and Sauk Village, Illinois. 

In many instances, the stun weapons were used against unarmed individuals resisting arrest or failing to comply immediately to police instructions. 

They have also been used against suspects fleeing the scene of minor crimes and teenagers, the report found.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August urged U.S. police departments to stop using excessive force.

That panel found African Americans are disproportionately the victims of police brutality and alleged widespread racial bias among U.S. law enforcement officers. It recommended that police commanders do more to implement rules for use of force and improve officer training. 

Friday's report by the U.N. torture committee notes with concern that 958 inmates died while in custody of local jails in 2012, an 8-percent increase over 2010.

It urges the United States to reform harsh sentencing procedures for juveniles. Many states have not passed legislation to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller vs. Alabama limiting the sentencing of juveniles to lifelong prison terms without the chance of parole.

Another issue is the extensive use of solitary confinement as a punishment, especially when used on juveniles and inmates with mental disabilities. It criticized the isolation of prisoners for 22 to 23 hours a day as “unacceptable.”

It also expresses “deep concern” about the indefinite detention of suspected terrorist combatants at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Only 33 of the 148 prisoners have been designated for potential prosecution by federal courts or military commissions.