Discriminatory practices by US police during protests involving African-Americans are in violation of the right to freedom of assembly, a UN official said Wednesday, after a more than two-week official visit to evaluate the situation in the US.
Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, warned that discrimination against black protesters, lack of accountability for police action and cities requiring permits for protests in the US run contrary to international law and freedom of assembly standards.
Kiai said that much of his visit focused on the Black Lives Matter movement, in which people protesting discrimination and police violence against African-Americans were often met with riot police and high numbers of arrests.
The special rapporteur, who visited US 10 cities including New Orleans and Baton Rouge in the state of Louisiana, and Ferguson, Missouri, said it was "disturbing" to learn that black protesters were handled differently, often being met with "disproportionate force" by law enforcement.
Kiai noted that such responses by police only lead to further resentment and alienation between black communities and authorities.
"It is manifestly unwise to respond to a largely peaceful, grieving crowd with riot gear, random arrests, flimsy charges, rough physical handling, verbal insults and so forth," Kiai said.
"This is not only a violation of the right to peaceful assembly, it [is] also dangerous for participants, the general public and police officers."
The UN official said he was also struck by the lack of accountability noting that US authorities have "vast and largely unchecked discretion" to arrest people, to formulate charges against them, to choose whether to deflect or invite the scrutiny of the US Department of Justice and to organize internal reviews.
Ensuring accountability for police shootings was especially important, Kiai said, adding that it was "incomprehensible" that the US did not have official records on the victims of such shootings.
The requirement by many cities to obtain permits to hold protests was also a violation of international standards on the freedom to assemble, the rapporteur said.
A full report of the visit to the US will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.