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UN Committee Against Torture Calls Out Chicago Police for Brutality, ‘Excessive Use of Force’

The United Nations Committee Against Torture released its report on the United States and its compliance with the Convention Against Torture. Remarkably, the committee indicated it was particularly concerned with reports of police violence in Chicago against young black and Latino people, who are allegedly profiled, harassed and subjected to “excessive force” by officers.

Earlier this month, a US delegation appeared before the committee as all countries that are signatories to the treaty banning torture are supposed to do every four years. Committee members were able to ask officials in the delegation any questions. Delegations from civil society organizations were also able to submit “shadow reports” on the US that committee would use to help them review the country’s record.

The US government’s insistence that a federal law specifically prohibiting torture is unnecessary, holds a “restrictive interpretation” of how the treaty applies to “any territory” under US control, captives remain in indefinite detention without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay prison and hunger strikers are subject to cruel and inhuman forced-feeding and the failure to appropriately hold officials accountable for torture were each some of the concerns.

Yet, even more remarkable was the fact that an entire section on police brutality and “excessive use of force” in the US solely focused on the Chicago Police Department.

The committee expressed “deep concern at the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals. In this regard, the committee notes the alleged difficulties to hold police officers and their employers accountable for abuses.”

“While noting the information provided by the delegation that over the past five years 20 investigations were opened into allegations of systematic police department violations, and over 330 police officers were criminally prosecuted, the Committee regrets the lack of statistical data available on allegations of police brutality and the lack of information on the result of the investigations undertaken in respect of those allegations,” the report added.

The committee proceeded to address the issue of torture committed by Chicago Police Department Commander Jon Burge and other police officers between 1972 and 1991 and share its dismay that no officer has been “convicted for these acts of torture for reasons including the statute of limitations expiring.”

It acknowledged that a federal investigation had asserted there were no “prosecutable constitutional violations” uncovered, however, the committee criticized the fact that the “vast majority of those tortured—most of them African Americans—have received no compensation for the extensive injuries suffered.”

What stands out is how what has been happening in St. Louis County, Missouri, particularly Ferguson, went unmentioned in the report. There is nothing about the shooting of Michael Brown. The increased militarization of police activities is noted, but the primary concern of the committee is Chicago police.

This is largely a result of a Chicago-based grassroots organization, We Charge Genocide, which produced a thorough “shadow report” and traveled to Geneva to present their findings to the UN committee. And the organization was pleased with their success, that the group’s experiences formed the “bedrock” of the committee’s concerns and recommendations.

“We went to Geneva as a delegation of We Charge Genocide with the intention of getting Chicago visibly named as a site for systematic, horrific & punitive police violence against Black and Brown youth on a daily basis, and it is safe to say that we achieved our goal,” the organization declared in a statement provided to Firedoglake. [cont’d.]

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."