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NAACP Commends Concluding Observations from UN Human Rights Committee

Written by Featured Organization on 27 March 2014.

John Travis Holt NAACP member

Issues of felony disenfranchisement, stand your ground, racial profiling, and the school to prison pipeline addressed by Human Rights Committee’s Report (Geneva) The NAACP applauds the UN Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations from the United States International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) treaty compliance review.   The report identifies issues of felony disenfranchisement, stand your ground laws, the death penalty and more.  (Full Report Here). The NAACP brought an 11-person delegation to the hearings in Geneva.

“This report reiterated what those in the civil rights community have known for too long – the United States has more work to do to meet its human rights obligations,” stated Lorraine C. Miller, NAACP Interim President and CEO. “From felony disenfranchisement and stand your ground laws to voter suppression and the school to prison pipeline, we are pleased the Human Rights Committee has elevated these issues on the international stage. This gives us leverage in the United States to more aggressively address these issues at home.”

Regarding felony disenfranchisement the report states, “The Committee reiterates its concern about the persistence of state-level felon disenfranchisement laws, its disproportionate impact on minorities, and the lengthy and cumbersome state voting restoration procedures.” It then recommends, “The State party should ensure that all states reinstate voting rights to felons who have fully served their sentences, provide inmates with information about their voting restoration options and remove or streamline lengthy and cumbersome state voting restoration procedures, as well as review automatic denial of the vote to any imprisoned felon, regardless of the nature of the offence.”

“The Committee’s report squarely identifies the continued practice of felony disenfranchisement as a human rights abuse in violation of the ICCPR,” stated Jotaka Eaddy, NAACP Senior Advisor to the President & CEO and Senior Director for Voting Rights. “The right to vote is fundamental to American citizenship and attempts to deny this vital right is inconsistent with human rights norms.  The NAACP will work at the state and national level to implement policies that will bring the United States into compliance with the ICCPR on this important issue.”

The NAACP brought several citizens impacted by felony disenfranchisement to the ICCPR review as part of its delegation.

“I am pleased that the Human Rights Committee is pressing the United States to address felony disenfranchisement laws” stated Jessica Chiappone, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition Vice President and member of the NAACP UN delegation. “Felony disenfranchisement has a domino effect, impacting not just the formerly incarcerated citizen, but also their family and community. I look forward to seeing the concrete steps the U.S. government will take address this human rights issue affecting millions of Americans.” Chiappone recently published a compelling editorial on her experience.

“I am encouraged by the Committee’s decision to address felony disenfranchisement I its concluding observations,” stated Desmond Meade, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President and NAACP UN Delegate. “As one of the over 1.54 million Floridians disfranchised by this arcane practice, I know firsthand the impact felony disenfranchisement. The U.S. should embrace these recommendations and our nation forward toward justice and equality for all.” 

“Felony disenfranchisement has the effect of creating a second-class citizenship in the United States, leaving formerly incarcerated citizens to feel as if they are less than human,” stated Kemba Smith-Pradia, author, public speaker & NAACP UN delegate. “I commend the Committee calling on the U.S. government to rectify this fundamental human rights issue.” Smith gave powerful testimony before the deputy high commissioner while in Geneva.

"Felony Disenfranchisement has never been about punishment. It has always been used to suppress the vote of  minorities and suppressing the vote through felony disenfranchisement is a violation of international human rights standards,” stated Dennis Gaddy, Criminal Justice Chair for the North Carolina NAACP, Executive Director at the Community Success Initiative and NAACP UN Delegate. I am honored to have shared my personal story of felony disenfranchisement with the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. I believe, and the Committee agrees, the United States can and must do better on this issue.”

The report also analyzed stand your ground laws, indicating that the Committee “is concerned about the proliferation of such laws that are used to circumvent the limits of legitimate self-defence in violation of the State party’s duty to protect life (arts. 2, 6, and 26).” It goes on to recommend a “review Stand Your Ground Laws to remove far-reaching immunity and ensure strict adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality when using deadly force in self-defence.”

“The Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations make it crystal clear that the promulgation of “stand your ground laws” and the continued use of the death penalty are a stain on the United States human rights records,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Sr. Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.  “The NAACP looks forward to working with the Department of Justice, the Department of State and all other government agencies to address these issues – specifically stand your ground, racial profiling and racial disparities in school discipline – so that our country remains a beacon for human rights protections across the world.”

“The observations within this report demonstrate that the Committee heard our concerns clearly,” stated Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, NAACP National Board of Directors Member and Chairman of the International Affairs Committee. "This report gives the NAACP another tool to fight injustices at home. Strengthening our capacity in the US enlarges our ability to work for justice around the world.”

“This report is an important, but not the final step toward addressing these clear and conspicuous violations of human rights in our country,” stated Clayola Brown, NAACP National Board of Directors member and NAACP UN delegate. “These issues cut across racial, gender and ethnic lines, therefore advocates and activists must continue to stand together and press our government to uphold the highest human rights standards for all people.”