UN / US HUMAN RIGHTS MINORITIES

22-Nov-2021 00:03:22
UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes said there is a need for a “new deal” in the United States for “comprehensive national human rights legislation to prevent the increasing exclusion [and] discrimination, and also [to] attack hate speech and hate crimes” experienced by minorities. UNIFEED
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STORY: UN / US HUMAN RIGHTS MINORITIES
TRT: 3:22
SOURCE: UNIFEED
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 22 NOVEMBER 2021, NEW YORK CITY
SHOTLIST
FILE – NEW YORK CITY

1. Wide shot, UN headquarters exterior

22 NOVEMBER 2021, NEW YORK CITY

2. SOUNDBITE (English) Fernand de Varennes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues:
“There is a need for a new deal in the United States, and by new deal what I was referring to is for comprehensive national human rights legislation to prevent the increasing exclusion, discrimination and also attack hate speech and hate crimes against minorities that are experienced by minorities.”

FILE – NEW YORK CITY

3. Wide shot, statue outside UN headquarters

22 NOVEMBER 2021, NEW YORK CITY

4. SOUNDBITE (English) Fernand de Varennes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues:
“One of the observations is that there have been very significant and hard-won human rights gains made mainly during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, but that the US stands out among democracies for its incomplete legislation for the recognition of human rights and for their protection. And one of the results is that minorities, and indigenous peoples also, are the most likely left behind in times such as these, particularly where we are seeing upheaval, uncertainty, and crisis linked to different phenomenon.”

FILE – NEW YORK CITY

5. Wide shot, UN headquarters exterior

22 NOVEMBER 2021, NEW YORK CITY

6. SOUNDBITE (English) Fernand de Varennes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues:
“The end of mission statement highlights that millions of Americans, particularly minorities, are facing growing inequality, growing discrimination, and are facing dramatic increases in hate speech and hate crime. As well as the challenges - disproportionate challenges and threats caused by environmental degradation, and grow economic, health, and educational disparities that leaves a disproportionate segment of minorities, of them, behind.”

FILE – NEW YORK CITY

7. Wide shot, UN headquarters exterior

22 NOVEMBER 2021, NEW YORK CITY

8. SOUNDBITE (English) Fernand de Varennes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues:
“I conclude that there is in fact what could be described as an undermining of democracy with a phenomenal number of legislative measures in different parts of the country, which have the effect- whether it's intentional or not, but it certainly has the effect - of making the exercise of the right to vote more difficult for certain minorities. There are also situations of gerrymandering which clearly suggests that certain individuals, particularly those that belong to minorities, have their voting role being diluted.”

FILE – NEW YORK CITY

9. Wide shot, UN headquarters exterior

22 NOVEMBER 2021, NEW YORK CITY

10. SOUNDBITE (English) Fernand de Varennes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues:
“So, you seem to have a three-tier approach in the rights, particularly political rights and voting rights of Americans, that it once again, seems anachronistic and truly inconsistent in a democracy where everyone, or they're supposed to be equal suffrage or the right to vote equally, for all of those who actually should be considered citizens or nationals. This is not the case in the US, and I think it is a historical legacy, which has a racial or ethnic dimension.”

FILE – NEW YORK CITY

11. Wide shot, UN headquarters exterior
STORYLINE
UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes said there is a need for a “new deal” in the United States for “comprehensive national human rights legislation to prevent the increasing exclusion [and] discrimination, and also [to] attack hate speech and hate crimes” experienced by minorities.

Speaking to reporters in New York today (22 Nov) via teleconference, de Varennes said he had just ended an official visit to the US to which he was invited in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the US government to assess the Human Rights situation of minorities in the country.

During his mission, which spanned from the 8th to the 22nd of November, de Varennes met with a number of federal, state, and territorial officials, as well as civil society representatives and civil rights organizations. His mission included visits to Guam, Texas, California, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC.

The Special Rapporteur said there was a need to overhaul legislation to prevent an increasing situation where minorities seem to be targeted and excluded in terms of access to public services and even in the right to vote.

De Varennes said there are many contradictions in the protection of minority rights in the US, adding that many of the laws in this area were first drafted in the 1960s and are now showing signs of fatigue.

He said, “One of the observations is that there have been very significant and hard-won human rights gains made mainly during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, but that the US stands out among democracies for its incomplete legislation for the recognition of human rights and for their protection. And one of the results is that minorities, and indigenous peoples also, are the most likely left behind in times such as these, particularly where we are seeing upheaval, uncertainty, and crisis linked to different phenomenon.”

The Special Rapporteur said his end of mission statement highlights that “millions of Americans, particularly minorities, are facing growing inequality, growing discrimination, and are facing dramatic increases in hate speech and hate crime. As well as the challenges - disproportionate challenges and threats caused by environmental degradation, and grow economic, health, and educational disparities that leaves a disproportionate segment of minorities, of them, behind.”

De Varennes noted that there have been significant changes in 2021 and commended US government for a number of initiatives and policies, including in dealing anti-Asian hate speech and the criminal justice system. He emphasized, however, that there is a lack of comprehensive national human rights legislation which needs to conform much more closely with international human rights obligations. He also highlighted the need for a national human rights institution for the protection and promotion of human rights.

De Varennes said African Americans are among the most marginalized minorities in the country and are by far the mostly likely to be denied the right to vote, to be incarcerated, to be the targets of hate speech, and to be excluded in a number of other areas.

He also expressed deep concern at sentencing disparities and incarceration rates for minorities in the criminal justice system, which he said created a generational cycle of poverty in a legal system that is set up to the advantage of the wealthy.

The Special Rapporteur also focused on the right to vote and equal political participation on minorities.

He said, “I conclude that there is in fact what could be described as an undermining of democracy with a phenomenal number of legislative measures in different parts of the country, which have the effect- whether it's intentional or not, but it certainly has the effect - of making the exercise of the right to vote more difficult for certain minorities. There are also situations of gerrymandering which clearly suggests that certain individuals, particularly those that belong to minorities, have their voting role being diluted.”

De Varennes also noted that there are different levels of citizenship in the United States. He said citizens in outside territories do not have the right to vote in presidential elections and do share the same types of political rights that other citizens do. He added that not all Americans are citizens, as American Samoans are considered only nationals and not citizens, and as such, are even less entitled to political rights than citizens in other territories.

He said, “So, you seem to have a three-tier approach in the rights, particularly political rights and voting rights of Americans, that it once again, seems anachronistic and truly inconsistent in a democracy where everyone, or they're supposed to be equal suffrage or the right to vote equally, for all of those who actually should be considered citizens or nationals. This is not the case in the US, and I think it is a historical legacy, which has a racial or ethnic dimension.”

De Varennes said he received excellent cooperation from the State Department, adding that the main point of the mission was to establish a constructive dialogue. He stressed that no country is perfect, adding that it is important to identify good practices.
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