United Nations Experts Examine Racism in the United States


On May 26, 2008, United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism Doudou Diene heard testimony from EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson as part of his field mission to examine racism in the United States. Mr. Stevenson detailed evidence of racial bias against African Americans, Latinos, and other racial minorities, from the administration of the death penalty to the treatment of children in the criminal justice system.

For example, nearly 80% of people on death row have been convicted of crimes against white victims although African Americans face much greater risks of homicide and victimization from violent crime.

Another example is that of the 73 children in the United States condemned to die in prison for crimes committed at age 13 or 14, two-thirds are children of color and all of the 13-year-olds are Black, even though African Americans constitute only 12% of the U.S. population.

The Special Rapporteur will report his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in 2009. His visit follows the March 2008 report of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which criticized the United States’ failure to meet its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Racial Discrimination. The Committee expressed concern about the persistent and significant racial disparities in the imposition of the death penalty and called on the United States to “adopt all necessary measures, including a moratorium, to ensure that the death penalty is not imposed as a result of racial bias.”

The Committee also found that life imprisonment without possibility of parole sentences are disproportionately imposed on children belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities. It concluded that such sentencing is incompatible with the Convention and recommended the abolition of death in prison for persons under eighteen at the time of the offense.