Today was an exciting day in Geneva at the review of the U.S.’s compliance with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Civil Society delegation had an informal briefing with the CERD Committee this morning, and then this afternoon the official review of the United States with the US government delegation began. Here is a picture of my colleague Erin Smith from Columbia Human Rights Institute and I speaking with CERD Committee member Ion Diaconu at the civil society briefing about access to justice. Spoiler alert: after this conversation Mr. Diaconu raised the issue of access to counsel in civil cases with the US government in the review this afternoon! It is important that committee members raise the issue because they are then likely to publish a “concluding observation” on it. Concluding observations represent the comments and recommendations of an international human rights body on the U.S.’s treaty compliance, and can be used in domestic advocacy and accountability efforts.
Also, on a slightly different note, I mentioned in a previous blog entry that Ron Davis (the father of Jordan Davis) is in Geneva advocating against racial gun violence and Stand Your Ground laws- here is an article in Al Jazeera about his advocacy at CERD, in the context of the recent killing of Michael Brown in Furguson, MO. Today the CERD Committee specifically spoke of Mr. Davis’ testimony in their comments to the United States.