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U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism Brings Fact-Finding Mission to NYC, Meets with CCR Representatives

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Wednesday, May 21, New York – Today civil liberties and human rights groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), welcomed the visit of a United Nations expert on racism to conduct a two-day fact-finding mission on the state of racial inequality and discrimination in New York City. The visit, from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, comes just weeks after legislation was introduced in City Council to bring a new approach to combating discrimination in New York City.

The U.N. expert’s visit, which takes place May 21-22, was welcomed by human rights advocates across the city, including the Center for Community Alternatives, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, Peoples' Justice, the Justice Committee, New York Civil Liberties Union, Center for Constitutional Rights, Justice Committee, Women of Color Policy Network, Picture the Homeless, New York Solidarity Coalition with Katrina and Rita Survivors, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Concerned Citizens for Family Preservation and the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center.

CCR representatives presented on the issue of police brutality in New York City, focusing on racial profiling and the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, and also submitted written testimony. To download the written testimony, please see the attached document.

The Special Rapporteur’s New York City visit will include meetings with human rights advocates and city officials and focus on issues of criminal justice, education, housing, youth, immigration policy, police brutality, hate crimes and racial profiling. He is conducting similar assessments in Washington DC, Chicago, Omaha, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico as part of a three-week trip to the United States.

In February, three members of the above NYC groups attended the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva and presented Race Realities in New York City, a report by a coalition of New York City human rights advocates which found rampant discrimination and racial disparities in New York City.

In March, the same U.N. Committee issued a strongly worded critique of the United States' record on racial discrimination and urged the government to make sweeping reforms to policies affecting racial and ethnic minorities, women, immigrants and indigenous populations in the U.S.

These findings and the settlement of another lawsuit against the City for racially-biased hiring practices prompted human right advocates and Councilmember Helen Foster to introduce Human Rights GOAL (Government Operations Audit Law) in March. The bill would require City agencies to track a range of statistics along racial and gender lines so that the City and the public can more closely monitor any policies that, intentionally or not, discriminate against specific populations. There is currently no citywide standard for how agencies monitor racial and gender breakdowns of services and policy impacts.

The position of the Special Rapporteur on racism was established in 1993 the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and further extended by the U.N. Human Rights Council. A former director of UNESCO Department of Intercultural Dialogue, Mr. Diène is the second Special Rapporteur to hold the mandate. Since his appointment in 2002, he has conducted official visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Canada, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Côte d'Ivoire, Guatemala, Japan, Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, the Russian Federation, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Dominican Republic and Mauritania.

He will submit a final report on the visit to the Human Rights Council in the spring of 2009.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.