I: Where there is racism, there can be no justice

----- Original Message -----
From: ainews <ainews at amnesty.org>
To: <amnesty-l at oil.ca>
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 12:00 PM
Subject: Where there is racism, there can be no justice

> * News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
> International *
> 25 July 2001
> ACT 40/025/2001
> 116/01
> "Racism is a blatant attack on the very notion of basic human
> rights -- that human rights belong to all people, equally.
> Justice systems should be central to combatting racism, yet all
> too often they end up perpetuating it by mirroring the prejudices
> of their societies, " Amnesty International said today in a new
> report; Racism and the Administration of Justice.
>      The report is a contribution to the UN World Conference
> against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
> Intolerance due to be held in Durban, South Africa, between 30
> August and 7 September 2001.
>      "Racism is a blot on humanity that infects virtually
> every country in the world. Governments must pro-actively tackle
> racism and ensure that justice is administered on the basis of
> human rights for all," said Amnesty International.
>      Racism unchecked can lead to large scale tragedies. The
> world looked on in horror when in just 13 weeks up to a million
> people were massacred in Rwanda in 1994. Most of those killed
> were Tutsi.
>      But what rarely catches the headlines are the abuses that
> take place everyday in the administration of justice partly or
> solely because of racism.  In most countries racism can only be
> identified by looking at patterns of arrest, conviction and
> sentencing in relation to the racial background of the defendant,
> victim or administrators of justice.
>      In the USA, studies have consistently indicated that race
> -- particularly of the murder victim -- is a key factor in
> determining who is sentenced to death. Blacks and whites are the
> victims of murder in almost equal numbers, yet more than 80 per
> cent of prisoners executed since 1977 were convicted for the
> murder of a white person.
>      Police and the judiciary are involved in what has been
> called India's "hidden apartheid".  Over 160 million Dalits,
> formerly known as "untouchables", are vulnerable to a whole range
> of human rights abuses because of their caste almost all of which
> go uninvestigated and unpunished.
>      At a conference last year an elderly Dalit man recalled
> how his wife, daughter and two sons were burned alive, along with
> three others, when members of the of a dominant Hindu upper caste
> set fire to three huts belonging to Dalit families.  His eldest
> son, the first graduate from the village, had been murdered two
> years earlier also by caste Hindus.  All the Dalits in the
> village had fled and none wanted to return home as they believed
> the police would not protect them.
>      "All over the world the connection between racism and
> brutality by state officials is clear. In many countries ethnic
> minorities often suffer harassment, ill-treatment and torture at
> the hands of police. They then go on to face unfair trials,
> discriminatory sentencing and harsh punishments, including the
> death penalty," Amnesty International said.
>      Ethnic minorities are likely to face discrimination
> wherever they live. In the UK the police were found to have been
> negligent in their response to racist attacks.  The Kurdish
> community in Turkey are not recognised in law and publicly
> referring to "the Kurdish people" can lead to a prison sentence.
> Across Europe, Roma people are commonly viewed as criminals and
> subjected to beatings.
>      An estimated 300 million indigenous peoples still face
> discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives and many are
> targeted for other grave human rights abuses.  Their
> vulnerability is enhanced by a lack of state protection.
>      In Honduras in recent years, police have harassed
> indigenous people determined to protect their rights.  The
> government has signed several agreements with indigenous leaders
> but still the protection is inadequate.  Over the last decade,
> some 25 indigenous community leaders have been killed as a result
> of their campaigning.
>      In Australia, Aborigines continue to suffer economic
> disadvantage, social disruption and systemic discrimination.  In
> 1997 an Aboriginal woman complained to Northern Territory police
> that she had been raped by two men.  The police detained her for
> failure to appear in court on a minor charge.  Although a doctor
> confirmed she was a rape victim, she was taken to court in the
> rain,  and locked in an uncovered cage on the back of a police
> van.  Police officers reportedly justified her treatment on the
> grounds that it was better care than in her "primitive"
> Aboriginal community home.
>      Around the world, foreigners, including migrant workers
> and asylum seekers, live in xenophobic environments, sometimes
> stirred up by the authorities and almost always reflected in the
> administration of justice.  Increasingly asylum seekers are being
> detained for months or years while their claims for protection
> are examined.
>      In December 2000, a 31-year-old Iraqi national committed
> suicide in al-Rafha refugee camp in the northern desert of Saudi
> Arabia where he had been living since the early 1990s. He was one
> of 5,000 people who have been held in the camp since the end of
> the Gulf War.
>      From the outset, the Saudi Arabian authorities referred
> to them as "guests", refusing to consider them as refugees even
> though the constitution stipulates that "The state shall grant
> political asylum, if so required by the public interest..."  Most
> of the original 33,000 men, women and children have been
> resettled by the United Nations.
>      The Amnesty International report calls on all governments
> to adopt national plans of action to combat racism and to include
> specific measures relating to the administration of justice.
> The  report makes several recommendations, including: ensure that
> national laws prohibit all forms of discrimination; investigate
> allegations of racist abuses by justice officials; and ensure
> that policing operations are not discriminatory.
>      "Racism, however, is not confined to the institution of
> the state.  It can be found at any level of civil society.  The
> responsibility for combatting racism therefore extends to
> everyone."
>      Amnesty International is issuing this report as concerns
> mount that political disputes may derail the World Conference
> against Racism. Much of the preparations for the conference have
> been marred by a failure to reach agreement over how to deal with
> the legacy of slavery and colonialism, with insufficient
> attention being given to addressing the various and widespread
> forms of contemporary racism.
>      "The world must recognize the wrongs of the past as a way
> to better understand the present and move forward towards a
> future free from the evil of racism," Amnesty International said.
> "Governments must not allow the World Conference to fail. It is
> too important an opportunity for making a breakthrough against
> racism and providing hope to countless people worldwide."
> Read the report Racism and the Administration of Justice:
> http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/recent/ACT400202001?OpenDocument
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