NEW ORLEANS -- A United Nations human rights body today expressed grave concerns over the human rights policies of the U.S government. It made special mention of the actions of officials in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina related to the failure to evacuate prisoners at Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) and the roadblock put up by the Gretna Police Department on the Greater New Orleans Bridge. The ACLU of Louisiana welcomed the recommendations and continues to urge the New Orleans City Council to investigate what happened at OPP and for Attorney General Foti to complete his inquiry on the Gretna Bridge incident.
"The State of Louisiana should be ashamed of its dismal human rights record as showcased to the world on its handling of the evacuation of those left behind after Katrina and the flood, mainly people of color and the poor," said Joe Cook, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana. "We have twice called for Attorney General Foti to complete his investigation of the Gretna Bridge incident and for the Department of Justice to look into the matter as well."
"The experience of the 6,000+ men, women and children who were in Orleans Parish Prison during Katrina was tragic. The fact that the United Nations highlighted this 'disaster within a disaster' in its observations affirms the basic value of all human beings; it is unacceptable to treat any segment of society as 'disposable,'" said Katie Schwartzmann, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Louisiana. "These people were incapable of fending for themselves, and they were locked behind bars as the floodwaters rose. Hopefully the international attention will help to prevent this from ever being repeated."
The Committee also acknowledged the disadvantages suffered by poor people and African Americans in rescue operations after Hurricane Katrina and in reconstruction efforts, and called on the U.S. to increase its efforts to provide equal access to housing, education and healthcare.
In addition, the Committee called upon the U.S. to intensify its efforts to end racial profiling by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and criticized the prevalence of racial profiling and racial disparities in prosecutions and sentencing in the criminal justice system, and called for an end to such practices.
The recommendations come at the conclusion of a three-week session of the U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) and after two days of meetings on July 17 and 18 with a high level U.S. delegation that answered questions about the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The ACLU's Shadow Report to the HRC, Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is available online at www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/25924pub20060620.html