In 1994, the United States Senate ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (the CERD). Although the United States is supposed to make reports to the UN committee which oversees compliance with the CERD every two years, it did not file its second report until 2007. Mobilization of Shame Following in the footsteps of Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute (MCLI) Executive Director Ann Fagan Ginger’s trailblazing work on using treaties as part of a “mobilization of shame,” a broad “shadow reporting” coalition has developed in the past few years under the auspices of the U.S. Human Rights Network. At the last several Guild conventions, resolutions have been adopted affirming our commitment to the UN human rights treaties and shadow reporting work.
The shadow coalition responded to the U.S. State Department report to the UN CERD committee in Geneva with its own extensive report covering a host of issues from structural racism to prison. Several Guild members were involved in drafting parts of this report; including Kerry McLean, who worked on the New York City section, and Aliya Karmali, who addressed issues about reproductive rights of women of color in prisons. In addition, MCLI prepared a separate series of seven concise tables documenting racial disparities and other shortcomings for the UN CERD committee.
Geneva and Beyond
Along with 24 U.S. government representatives, dozens of individuals from the shadow reporting coalition will travel to Geneva for the UN CERD committee’s formal review of the United States’ report, at the end of February. Representing MCLI, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (of which the Guild is an affiliate and which has consultative status at the UN), and the NLG will be in Geneva itself, represente by Judge Claudia Morcom of Detroit, who stood on the front lines of the legal struggle for civil rights in Mississippi in the 1960s.
Three lawyers from the shadow reporting network; Professor Lisa Crooms of Howard University Law School, Andrea Ritchie, and Eric Tars; are slated to give a report back from Geneva at the Mid-Atlantic Guild Regional Conference on March 1. As law students, lawyers, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers, we in the Guild can play an active role in realizing the promise of the CERD in the United States, where its status as a treaty ostensibly makes it the “Supreme Law of the Land.”