The United Nations Committee against Torture has urged the United States to start taking their police brutality problem seriously.
The UN committee has requested that a thorough investigation be conducted into the recent rash of shootings of black youths in America. Alongside this new investigation the committee has requested that there be a reduction in the use of tasers on criminals unless considered absolutely necessary.
This will mark the first time that the committee on preventing torture has reviewed America in 8 years. The most recent investigations comes on the heels of the unrest in Ferguson and the shooting of Mike Brown which led to those protests. The grand jury decision not to indict the officer who shot Mike Brown has led to widespread protests in the United States and has led to several arrests as well as yet more shootings of the black community in America.
The committee has vigorously condemned the “excruciating pain and prolonged suffering” for prisoners during “botched executions” as well as frequent rapes of inmates. The committee also found that in some prisons pregnant women were shacked, and went on to say that extensive use of solitary confinement was used across America and was an inappropriate punishment.
The panel referred to the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.” Alessio Bruni a member of the panel on torture said, “We recommend that all instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent mechanism,” He went on to cite as examples the, “reported current police violence in Chicago especially against African-Americans and Latino young people”.
The United States delegation would counter by saying that 20 investigations had been opened since 2009 into systematic police abuses and that more than 330 police officers had been prosecuted for brutality. A figure which appears at the same time to high, and yet much too low.
Committee member, Jens Modvig, told reporters, “We have certain concerns about whether investigations are thoroughly completed and whether punishment of law enforcement officers, when they have crossed the line, are effectively put in place.”
This report was welcomed by campaigners for change in the American police system. Jamil Dakwar, of the American Civil Liberties Union, who attended the review, said, “This report, along with the voices of Americans protesting around the country this week, is a wake-up call for police who think they can act with impunity,” Whether this report will serve as the “wake-up call” that Darkwar wants remains to be seen considering that this panel has previously assessed American police this way and yet nothing changed then.
The report also went on to disparage the US by saying that the United States should end it’s “prison-like detention facilities” for migrants, which include children. There was also a suggestion made that the US had failed to fully investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of terrorism suspects held in U.S. custody abroad. This we can safely assume means Guantanamo Bay and the report states that the ill treatment is, “evidenced by the limited number of criminal prosecutions and convictions”.
148 inmates are held at the US Guantanamo base in Cuba. The committee’s report called that around the base there was, “a draconian system of secrecy surrounding high-value detainees that keeps their torture claims out of the public domain”.
This report could not have come at a worse time for the United States considering the poor state of belief in the police force now the prison system has also been brought into disrepute. Hopefully this latest report and the recent protests will lead to some thorough investigation along with a restructuring of the prison system and police training and practices. This change, however, appears to be something of a pipe dream.
The United States following the murder of Trayvon Martin or the brutal beating of Rodney King did not change its policies. Racial tensions are at an all-time high and maybe that could lead to change but what’s more likely is that we will be seeing more dead black people in the streets of America before change can be won for all.