March 21, 2017

Pentagon Leads Over 300,000 Troops in a Rehearsal for an Invasion One Week after the White House Announces It’s Considering Military Action against North Korea


March 13, 2017
By Stephen Gowans
The United States and South Korea are conducting their largest-ever military exercises on the Korean peninsula [1], one week after the White House announced that it was considering military action against North Korea to bring about regime change. [2] The US-led exercises involve:
• 300,000 South Korea troops
• 17,000 US troops
• The supercarrier USS Carl Vinson
• US F-35B and F-22 stealth fighters
• US B-18 and B-52 bombers
• South Korean F-15s and KF-16s jetfighters. [3]
While the United States labels the drills as “purely defensive” [4] the nomenclature is misleading. The exercises are not defensive in the sense of practicing to repel a possible North Korean invasion and to push North Korean forces back across the 38th parallel in the event of a North Korean attack, but envisage an invasion of North Korea in order to incapacitate its nuclear weapons, destroy its military command, and assassinate its leader.
The exercises can only be construed as “defensive” if undertaken as preparation for a response to an actual North Korean first-strike, or as a rehearsed pre-emptive response to an anticipated first strike. In either event, the exercises are invasion-related, and Pyongyang’s complaint that US and South Korean forces are practicing an invasion is valid.
But the likelihood of a North Korean attack on South Korea is vanishingly small. Pyongyang is outspent militarily by Seoul by a factor of almost 4:1, [5] and South Korean forces can rely on more advanced weapons systems than can North Korea. Additionally, the South Korean military is not only backed up by, but is under the command of, the unprecedentedly powerful US military. A North Korean attack on South Korea would be suicidal, and therefore we can regard its possibility as virtually non-existent, especially in light of US nuclear doctrine which allows the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea. Indeed, US leaders have reminded North Korean leaders on numerous occasions that their country could be turned into “a charcoal briquette.” [6] That anyone of consequence in the US state truly believes that South Korea is under threat of an attack by the North is risible.
The exercises are being carried out within the framework of Operation Plan 5015 which “aims to remove the North’s weapons of mass destruction and prepare … for a pre-emptive strike in the event of an imminent North Korean attack, as well a ‘decapitation’ raids targeting the leadership.” [7]
In connection with decapitation raids, the exercises involve “US Special Missions Units responsible for the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, including SEAL Team Six.” [8] According to one newspaper report, the “participation of special forces in the drills…may be an indication the two sides are rehearsing the assassination of Kim Jong Un.” [9]
A US official told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that “A bigger number of and more diverse US special operation forces will take part in this year’s … exercises to practice missions to infiltrate the North, remove the North’s war command and demolish its key military facilities.” [10]
Astonishingly, despite participating in the highly provocative exercises–which can have no other consequence than to rattle the North Koreans and place them under imminent threat—the South Korean ministry of national defense announced that “South Korea and the US were keenly monitoring the movements of North Korean soldiers in preparation for possible provocations.” [11]
The notion that Washington and Seoul must be on the alert for North Korean ‘provocations’, at a time the Pentagon and its South Korean ally are rehearsing an invasion and ‘decapitation’ strike against North Korea, represents what East Asia specialist Tim Beal calls a “special sort of unreality.” [12] Adding to the unreality is the fact that the rehearsal for an invasion comes on the heels of the White House announcing urbi et orbi that it is considering military action against North Korea to bring about regime change.
In 2015, the North Koreans proposed to suspend their nuclear weapons program in exchange for the United States suspending its military exercises on the peninsula. The US State Department peremptorily dismissed the offer, saying it inappropriately linked the United States’ “routine” military drills to what Washington demanded of Pyongyang, namely, denuclearization. [13] Instead, Washington “insisted the North give up its nuclear weapons program first before any negotiations” could take place. [14]
In 2016, the North Koreans made the same proposal. Then US president Barack Obama replied that Pyongyang would “have to do better than that.” [15]
At the same time, the high-profile Wall Street-directed Council on Foreign Relations released a task force report which advised Washington against striking a peace deal with North Korea on the grounds that Pyongyang would expect US troops to withdraw from the peninsula. Were the United States to quit the peninsula militarily, its strategic position relative to China and Russia, namely, its ability to threaten its two near-peer competitors, would be weakened, the report warned. Accordingly, Washington was adjured to refrain from promising Beijing that any help it provided in connection with North Korea would be rewarded by a reduction in the US troop presence on the peninsula. [16]
Earlier this month, China resurrected Pyongyang’s perennial proposal. “To defuse the looming crisis on the peninsula, China [proposed] that, as a first step, [North Korea] suspend its missile and nuclear activities in exchange for a halt in the large scale US – [South Korea] exercises. This suspension-for-suspension,” the Chinese argued, “can help us break out of the security dilemma and bring the parties back to the negotiating table.” [17]
Washington rejected the proposal immediately. So too did Japan. The Japanese ambassador to the UN reminded the world that the US goal is “not a freeze-for-freeze but to denuclearize North Korea.” [18] Implicit in this reminder was the addendum that the United States would take no steps to denuclearize its own approach to dealing with North Korea (Washington dangles a nuclear sword of Damocles over Pyongyang) and would continue to carry out annual rehearsals for an invasion.
Refusal to negotiate, or to demand that the other side immediately grant what is being demanded as a precondition for talks, (give me what I want, then I’ll talk), is consistent with the approach to North Korea adopted by Washington as early as 2003. Urged by Pyongyang to negotiate a peace treaty, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell demurred. “We don’t do non-aggression pacts or treaties, things of that nature,” Powell explained. [19]
As part of the special unreality constructed by the United States, Russia, or more specifically its president, Vladimir Putin, is routinely accused by Washington of committing “aggressions,” which are said to include military exercises along the Russian border with Ukraine. These exercises, hardly on the immense scale of the US-South Korean exercises, are labelled “highly provocative” [20] by US officials, while the Pentagon-led rehearsal for an invasion of North Korea is described as routine and “defensive in nature.”
But imagine that Moscow had mobilized 300,000 Russian troops along the Ukraine border, under an operational plan to invade Ukraine, neutralize its military assets, destroy its military command, and assassinate its president, one week after the Kremlin declared that it was considering military action in Ukraine to bring about regime change. Who, except someone mired in a special sort of unreality, would construe this as “purely defensive in nature”?
1. “THAAD, ‘decapitation’ raid add to allies’ new drills,” The Korea Herald, March 13, 2017; Elizabeth Shim, “U.S., South Korean drills include bin Laden assassination team,” UPI, March 13, 2017.
2. Jonathan Cheng and Alastair Gale, “North Korea missile test stirs ICBM fears,” The Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2017.
3. “S. Korea, US begins largest-ever joint military drills,” KBS World, March 5, 2017; Jun Ji-hye, “Drills to strike N. Korea taking place,” Korea Times, March 13, 2017.
4. Jun Ji-hye, “Drills to strike N. Korea taking place,” Korea Times, March 13, 2017.
5. Alastair Gale and Chieko Tsuneoka, “Japan to increase military spending for fifth year in a row,” The Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2016.
6. Bruce Cumings, “Latest North Korean provocations stem from missed US opportunities for demilitarization,” Democracy Now!, May 29, 2009.
7. “THAAD, ‘decapitation’ raid add to allies’ new drills,” The Korea Herald, March 13, 2017.
8. “U.S., South Korean drills include bin Laden assassination team,” UPI, March 13, 2017.
9. Ibid.
10. “U.S. Navy SEALs to take part in joint drills in S. Korea,” Yonhap, March 13, 2017.
11. Jun Ji-hye, “Drills to strike N. Korea taking place,” Korea Times, March 13, 2017.
12. Tim Beal, “Looking in the right direction: Establishing a framework for analyzing the situation on the Korean peninsula (and much more besides),” Korean Policy Institute, April 23, 2016.
13. Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea offers U.S. deal to halt nuclear test,” The New York Times, January 10, 2015.
14. Eric Talmadge, “Obama dismisses NKorea proposal on halting nuke tests,” Associated Press, April 24, 2016.
15. Ibid.
16. “A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia,” Independent Task Force Report No. 74, Council on Foreign Relations, 2016.
17. “China limited in its self-appointed role as mediator for Korean peninsula affairs,” The Hankyoreh, March 9, 2017.
18. Farnaz Fassihi, Jeremy Page and Chun Han Wong, “U.N. Security Council decries North Korea missile test,” The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2017.
19. “Beijing to host North Korea talks,” The New York Times, August 14, 2003.
20. Stephen Fidler, “NATO struggles to muster ‘spearhead’ force to counter Russia,” The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2014.

March 20, 2017

Syrian UN Envoy: Putin Sent Message to Israel That Its Freedom to Act in Syria Is Over, Jack Khoury, Haaretz, Mar 20, 2017









The remains of an Israeli interception of a Syrian missile that landed in Jordan on Friday, March 17, 2017.

Bashar Jaafari says Syrian use of anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli fighter jets also sends another message to Jerusalem.
Growing tensions with Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria leave Israel little room for maneuvering


Jack Khoury Mar 20, 2017

Russia has sent a clear message to Israel that the rules of the game have changed in Syria and its freedom to act in Syrian skies is over, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Sunday night.

“Putin sent a clear message,” said Bashar Jaafari, speaking on Syrian television. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over.”

Syria’s use of anti-aircraft fire against Israel last Thursday night has changed the rules of the game, too, Jaafari said, adding that Syria will not stand idly by in the face of an Israeli threat.

He also claimed that when the civil war began in Syria in 2011, opposition militia groups sabotaged the anti-aircraft defense systems belonging to President Bashar Assad’s regime, giving Israel freedom to operate.

In a separate incident, Syrian media reported Sunday that the commander of a militia fighting alongside the regime was killed in an Israeli airstrike around Quneitra, in the Golan Heights.
The Lebanese TV channel Al Mayadeen, which is associated with Hezbollah, identified the casualty as Yasser Assayed, a member of the national defense militia. A source associated with the Assad regime said Assayad was a commander in the Golan brigade, a militia of Druze fighters (from villages in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights) who are fighting with the regime.

Between Thursday night and Friday morning, Israeli fighter jets attacked several targets in Syria, triggering the most serious clash between Israel and Syria since the civil war erupted six years ago. 

In response to the airstrikes, the Assad regime’s aerial defense system fired several missiles at the jets. Israel’s Arrow anti-missile defense system was launched, shooting down one of the missiles north of Jerusalem. The incident forced Israel to admit for the first time that it had launched an aerial attack in Syria.


Following that, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow, Gary Koren, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry for talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov – again, an unusual development. Since Russian forces began operating in Syria in 2015, there have been a number of airstrikes that foreign media have attributed to Israel. But the Israeli ambassador had never previously been called in to clarify Israel’s actions.

CANADIAN OPINION SHIFTS FROM PRO-ZIONIST VIEWS, March 1-15, 2017, issue of People's Voice

OPINION SHIFTS FROM PRO-ZIONIST VIEWS

Despite efforts by the corporate media and the leaders of major political parties in Canada, public opinion tn this country is shifting away from pro-Zionist positions. That seems to be the indication of two recent important developments. 

First, the membership of the Green Party of Canada (GPC) has ratified a resolution which calls for economic pressure and potentially sanctions on Israel for its failure to repect the human rights of Palestinians. The resolution was ratified with over 90% support, according tO Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East. (CJPME).

Although the resolution was passed at a party convention in early December, a newly instituted on-line ratification process gave all members the opportunity to vote on the resolution. This makes the Greens the first party in Parliament to call for sanctions on Israel for its abuses of Palestinian rights. (Others which don't currently have MPs, such as the Communist Party of Canada, are long-time official supporters of the "Boycott, divestment, sanctions" campaign.)

Among other things, the resolution calls for:

- A ban on products coming wholly or partly from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories

- A renegotiation of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, to exclude products from the settlements, and to ensure properly that the "Made in Israel" label apply only to those producs made entirely in Israel proper.

-The termination and indefinite suspension of all military and surveillance trade between Israel and Canada.

- The repeal of a 2016 parliamentary motion condemning Canadian individuals and groups promoting BDS.

Although sometimes referred to as a "BDS" resolution, the resolution actually avoids using the specific phrases, "Boycott, divestment, sanctions.: But it does mirror the concerns and objectives of the BDS movement, specifically mentioning, "government sanctions, consumer boycotts, [and] institutional divestment."

In other news, a recent survey reflects growing public criticism of Israeli policies. Of those who expressed an opinion, 46% of respondents said they had a "very negative' or "somewhat negative" view of Israel, while only 28 percent had a "very positive" or "somewhat positive" view. Most (61%) also said the Canadian government is generally more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian (only 16 percent held this opinion.)

The survey found that most agreed that criticism of Israeli government policy is not anti-Semitic. Of those who expressed an opinion, fully 91 percent agreed that criticism of Israel is like criticism of any other country, and is not necessarily anti-Semitic.

This contrasts sharply with Canada's parliamentarians, who frequently suggest that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Political party leaderships often believe that a strong defence of Palestinian rights would erode support for their parties. But this survey suggests that the opposite might be true, that demanding Israel's respect for Palestinian rights could attract voter support, and that members of the parties in Parliament should be more confident in calling for policy changes.

(The above article is from the March 1-15, 2017, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

[VID 14 min, 32] "Black Wealth is nearly invisible & White America owns almost everything", ANTONIO MOORE



Antonio Moore's youtube channel: tonetalks

Attorney Antonio Moore details the reality of wealth in America, and how it cuts across racial lines. The video relies on articles by Demos.org, that are based on data released by the Federal Reserve.

Statement by UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, on the conclusion of its official visit to USA, 19-29 January 2016







African-Americans killed by police in 2016
source: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17000&LangID=E



.... the Working Group is extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African Americans.


The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the US remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent. Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another, continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today. The dangerous ideology of white supremacy inhibits social cohesion amongst the US population. Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality that the US must address. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.

Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynching of the past. Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Racial bias and disparities in the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, and the tough on crime policies has disproportionately impacted African Americans. Mandatory minimum sentencing, disproportionate punishment of African Americans including the death penalty are of grave concern.
During this country visit, the experts observed the excessive control and supervision targeting all levels of their life. This control since September 2001, has been reinforced by the introduction of the Patriot Act. We heard testimonies from African Americans based on their experience that people of African descent are treated by the State as a dangerous criminal group and face a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.

The state is also not acting with due diligence to protect the rights of African American communities, as evidenced by the lack of gun control and stand your ground laws, among others. Hate crime groups, including white supremacist terror groups are still active in the US targeting the Black community as was seen in the attack at the church in Charleston in 2015. The Confederate flag is considered as a symbol of hate for many African Americans and they have led campaigns to have it removed however it still is used by some local authorities.

The persistent gap in almost all the human development indicators, such as life expectancy, income and wealth, level of education and even food security, among African Americans and the rest of the US population, reflects the level of structural discrimination that creates de facto barriers for people of African descent to fully exercise their human rights.

Disparities in the enforcement of policies, can be found in the different approaches adopted by states to address issues such as racial profiling, the presence of police in schools, the criminalization of homelessness, the limitations on the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials, the use of solitary confinement and the trial of juvenile offenders, among others.

The Working Group is concerned about the alarming levels of police brutality and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials committed with impunity. In addition to the most recent and well-known cases of killings of unarmed African Americans, such as the cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and Laquan McDonald, the Working Group also received information about many other similar cases. The Working Group met with a considerable number of relatives of African Americans killed by police officers that are still seeking justice for their loved ones including Tyron West, Tyron Lewis, Jonathon Sanders, Oscar Grant, Tony Robinson, Marlon Brown, India Kager, Ronald Johnson, Mohamed Bah and Alonso Smith.

Despite some efforts made by the Department of Justice, there is still a lack of an official national system to track killings committed by law enforcement officials. Unofficial sources, such as The Washington Post and The Guardian, identified between 38 and 75 cases of unarmed African Americans killed by the police in 2015.
However, the Working Group is deeply concerned about the low number of cases where police officers have been held accountable. The Working Group identified that the lack of initial investigations conducted by independent and external bodies from police departments, the wide discretion of attorney generals to determine when and how to present charges and the state and county regulation that are not in line with international standards on the use of the force and firearms are some of the main barriers to police accountability.

Racial profiling is a rampant practice and seriously damages the trust which African Americans have in relation to law enforcement officials.


Some media portray African Americans as criminals and this negatively impacts on the perception which the American society in general has in relation to African Americans.

With 2.3 million people incarcerated and 4.8 million on parole or probation, mass incarceration has had a disproportionately impact on People of African descent. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (2014) shows that 36% of the sentenced state and federal prisoners are African Americans. One in three African American men will go to prison or jail if current trends continue. African American women are also increasingly being targeted by the criminal justice system.

The costs of mass incarceration practices must be measured in human lives, and particularly the generations of young Black who serve long prison sentences and are lost to their families and communities. We also heard how mass incarceration of Black men and women has had devastating effect on their children.

We express deep concern on the continued existence of death penalty in 31 states and at the federal level. African Americans represent 41.7 percent of death row population and out of 28 inmates executed in 2015, 10 were African Americans.
State laws that established mandatory minimum sentences and zero tolerance policies have been applied with racial bias. Thousands of young African Americans have been placed in detention centres without addressing the root causes of crime, or guaranteeing better security to their communities; nor have they been offered effective rehabilitation.

The Working Group is concerned about inadequate conditions of detention and in accessing quality health care, including for mental health. Reportedly, inmates were either misdiagnosed or over-medicated. African American communities highlighted that the privatization of prisons might tend to privilege the earning of profits, by sacrificing adequate detention conditions.

We are also concerned about the criminalization of poverty which disproportionately affects African Americans. There has been an increase in imprisonment of people for minor offences and those who are unable to pay debts due to an increase in fines and fees. They are detained in debtor prisons and made to work off their debt. As the Justice Department has shown in the investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, in other counties the imposition of fines is a way to secure revenues than a public security issue. This creates numerous problems for the individual and family.

There is also an excessive punishment of poor children for minor offences.

The devastating impact of the “war on drugs” has led to mass incarceration and is compared to enslavement, due to exploitation and dehumanization of African Americans.

While noting the recent Executive order on solitary confinement, we remain concerned about its use in prisons, juvenile detention centres and foster care, at both federal and state levels. We are particularly concerned about its negative impact on children.

People that served their time in prison continue to be stigmatized when they are released. Their criminal records impedes them from finding a job, getting adequate housing or accessing social programmes, and voting. Some re-entry programmes are not well-funded and are not present countrywide.

We are concerned about the underage prosecution of children as adults in the USA. Children are detained in adult jails and prisons putting them at risk of sexual assault and abuse. These practices are a violation of children’s human rights and should be eliminated. Juveniles should be treated as juveniles no matter what crime they are alleged to have committed and must be held in a juvenile facility.
The Working Group was also concerned that voter ID laws with increased identification requirements in several states served to discriminate minorities such as African Americans contrary to the spirit of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The cumulative impact of racially-motivated discrimination faced by African Americans in the enjoyment of their right to education, health, housing and employment, among other economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, has had serious consequences for their overall well-being. Racial discrimination continues to be systemic and rooted in an economic model that denies development to the poorest African American communities. More than ten million (26%) of African Americans remain mired in poverty and almost half of them (12%) live in what is known as “deep poverty”. The Working Group is particularly concerned about the fact that 48% of the households headed by African American women live under the poverty line.

The Working Group noted that a number of factors contributed to the disparities faced by African Americans in the realization of the right to health, including access to health insurance coverage, lack of access to preventive services and care, and lack of diversity and cultural competency of the care. While the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has led to a 17.6 million people getting health insurance coverage, states with some of the widest health disparities in the country have rejected Medicaid expansion, one of the main tools to cover the uninsured. Nine out of ten people who fall into the coverage gap live in the South and Black adults are more likely than any other racial group to be affected. The impact of social determinants such as access to quality and healthy housing conditions, lack of education and employment, transportation barriers also continued to serve as barriers to the full enjoyment of right to health.


The Working Group learnt that African Americans have limited access to food variety including healthy food as they are concentrated in poor neighbourhoods with food outlets selling unhealthy and even expired food. African Americans have the highest rates of obesity which is linked to “food deserts”. Racial discrimination impedes the ability of Black women to maintain overall good health, control their sexuality and reproduction, survive pregnancy and child birth, and parent their children. Black women in the USA die from pregnancy-related complications at a rate three to four times higher than White women.

We were informed that across the country there are police in the schools arresting children for minor offences. The police have authority to detain, frisk and arrest children in school. Zero tolerance policies and heavy-handed efforts to increase security in schools have led to excessive penalization and harassment of African American children through racial profiling. African American children are more likely to face harsh disciplinary measures than White children. This phenomenon has been sadly described as “the school to prison pipeline”.

The Working Group was concerned by the under-funding and closure of schools that are particularly in poor neighbourhoods with significant African American population. We were concerned to learn that there are threats to close the Chicago State University, a historically Black university.

In school curricula, the historical facts concerning the period of colonization and enslavement are not sufficiently covered in all schools. This history, crucial in the organization of the current American society is taught differently by states, and fails to adequately address the root causes of racial inequality and injustice. Consequently, this contributes to the structural invisibility of African-Americans.

We have received information about de facto segregation schools. Segregation appears to be nurtured by, a culture of insufficient acknowledgement of the history of enslavement and the Jim Crow Law. There is also a lack of attention to the matter of reparatory justice for enslavement and its effects.

We are concerned about the persistence of a de facto residential segregation in many of the metropolitan areas in the US. A series of maps, generated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, shows not only stark levels of concentration of African-American families in low income neighbourhoods and districts, but also the correlation between racial segregation and disparities in access to health, education and even access to adequate food among them and the White population.

The zip code can determine to some extent the future development of young African Americans. People from Black poor neighbourhoods are more likely to face lower education achievements, more exposure to violence and crime, a tense interaction with the police, less employment opportunities, environmental degradation and low life expectancy rates as well.


In many cities African Americans are facing a housing crisis, in which people are not able to pay their rents or mortgages, and even less to purchase a new house. In addition, the Working Group was informed about the destruction of public housing on some cities; at the same time, public funding for new houses appears insufficient to meet the demands of new housing.

The Working Group was informed that African Americans are more likely than White people with similar borrowing profiles to be victims of predatory lending and to receive higher cost loans.
In addition, the process of gentrification has a heavy impact on African Americans who are being displaced from city centers under the argument of the need for new investment and development. In particular, the Working Group was alarmed by incidents of eviction, demolition and conversion of Barry Farm public housing in Washington D.C.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015, Of over half a million homeless people in the US, African Americans constituted 40.4 percent. They also constituted 30.4% of the homeless people that were unsheltered.

Despite the recovery of the US economy, the impact of the 2008-2009 economic recession had on African Americans is still very present. The unemployment rate among African Americans is twice the national unemployment rate. The Working Group is especially concerned about the level of unemployment among young African Americans without a high school degree. In 2014 the annual income for African-Americans was almost half the income of White Americans who are not Hispanic.
People of African descent continue to be underrepresented in higher level working positions. In 2013 they only represented the 7% of the senior level employers. Instead, their participation on temporary jobs with lesser security and lower salaries has been on the increase in recent years. Nearly half a million African Americans earn the minimum wage.. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) continued to receive more than 30,000 complaints a year concerning racial discrimination.

The highest polluting industrial facilities, across a range of sectors from farming, mining to manufacturing, are more likely to be situated in poor and minority neighbourhood, including those of people of African descent. For instance, we are concerned about the possible health risks to people of African descent on account of the incinerator project in Curtis Bay, Baltimore and the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. African American communities are calling for environmental justice as they are concerned that they are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards impacting their health and standard of living.

We also studied intersectionality of the different forms of discrimination and heard experiences of discrimination based on skin colour, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sex and gender identity. In particular we are concerned by the increasing level of violence and murders of transgendered women.

The complexity of the organisation of the legal system with independence of federal, state, county and tribal jurisdiction and lack of direct applicability of international human rights law and federal law and policy creates gaps that impacts deeply on the human rights of African Americans.

The Working Group acknowledges that Civil Rights federal legislation, put in place in the 1960’s and the 1970’s, has had a positive impact redressing individual and even institutional cases of racial discrimination. However, hearing the testimonies of African American communities in different parts of the country, the Working Group is concerned about civil rights laws implementation not being sufficiently effective to overcome and transform the structural racial discrimination against African Americans.

The Working Group is concerned that African Americans do not have the possibility to bring their cases or individual complaints to regional and international bodies when they have exhausted all domestic remedies at the state and federal level as they are not party to the protocols which would allow them to bring complaints. Furthermore International human rights treaties cannot be invoked in national courts as there is no enabling legislation and they have been declared non-self-executing.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are intended to assist the United States of America in its efforts to combat all forms of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance:
The Working Group reiterates the following recommendation made after its visit to the United States in 2010:

- Establish a national human rights commission, in accordance with the Paris Principles. The Government should establish within this body a specific division to monitor the human rights of African Americans.

- In addition to the above, the Working Group urges the Government of the United States to consider the ratification of the core international human rights treaties to which the United States is still not a party, with a view to remove any gaps in the protection and full enjoyment of rights therein. It also encourages the USA to ratify regional human rights treaties as well as review reservations related to the treaties it has signed or ratified.

- Federal and state laws should be adopted incorporating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights treaties.

- There is a profound need to acknowledge that the transatlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity and among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and that Africans and people of African descent were victims of these acts and continue to be victims of their consequences. Past injustices and crimes against African Americans need to be addressed with reparatory justice.

- Monuments, memorials and markers should be erected to facilitate this important public dialogue. Education must be accompanied by acts of reconciliation, which are needed to overcome acts of racial bigotry and legacies of injustice. To accelerate the process of desegregation, federal and state legislation should be passed recognizing the experience of enslavement.

- During the International Decade for People of African Descent public forums or hearings should be held with African American communities to enter into a constructive and open dialogue in which organizations, social movements have access to share experiences and to engage with the policy makers and institutions and local state and federal government on ways to address the current crisis.

- We encourage congress to pass the H.R. 40 -Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act - Establishes the Commission to examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.

- We encourage the US government to elaborate a National Action Plan for Racial Justice to fully implement the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and comprehensively address racism affecting African Americans.

- The Government should increase engagement with human rights organizations and civil society at large with an aim to implement the Universal Periodic Review recommendations made to and accepted by the USA.

- We urge the Government to ensure that recent policies undertaken to address racial disparities will be further implemented at the federal and state levels.

- The Working Group urges Congress to expedite the passing of all pending criminal justice reform bills including the End Racial Profiling Act, the Second Chance Reauthorization Act and welcomes the bi-partisan support for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which among other things proposes to drastically reduce the use of mandatory minimum sentencing.

- In imposing the sentence, the welfare of the family of the accused should be taken into account, with particular attention to the best interests of the child.

- Appropriate measures should be adopted to prevent excessive bail. Alternatives to detention should also be explored.

- Community policing strategies should be developed to give the community control of the police which are there to protect and serve them. It is suggested to have a board that would elect police officers they want playing this important role in their communities.

- Before non-payment of a court fine or fee is treated as civil contempt of court charge it must first be determined whether the individual has the ability to pay. Imprisonment should not be offered as a way of paying off the debt. If the debt cannot be paid the fee should not be levied.

- We also recommend that part of the prison reforms processes and policies include specific policies to address increasing rate of incarceration of African- American women.

- Solitary confinement should be banned absolutely for being in violation of international human rights law standards particularly those found in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners.

- The Working Group recommends to the Government to allow independent monitoring of places of detention in the United States and in this connection consider inviting Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

- International human rights standards should be observed in the criminal justice system. We recommend the abolition of the death penalty throughout the United States.

- The Working Group calls upon the Government to ensure that all states repeal laws that restrict the voting rights. In particular it urges reinstatement of voting rights of persons convicted of felony who have completed their sentences.

- Targeted measures should be developed with the community to raise awareness and reduce crimes against LGBTQI community, in particular against transgendered women.
- The Working group recommends improving reporting of violations involving the excessive use of force and extra-judicial killings by the police, and ensure that reported cases of excessive use of force are independently investigated; that alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions; that investigations are re-opened when new evidence becomes available; and that victims or their families are provided with remedy.

- The Working Group recommends to the Government to step up its efforts to prevent excessive use of force by law enforcement officials by ensuring compliance with the 1990 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.


- Security policies in schools should be revisited. Policing in schools should be abolished.

- Misdemeanour laws should be repealed, such as the misdemeanour law in South Carolina where school disturbance constitutes a misdemeanour.

- The use of restraint and seclusion in schools should be prohibited. Early counselling should be given to students with mental health issues. Special attention and protection must be given to students with autism, ADHD and other similar disabilities.

- We recommend the Government develop guidelines on how to ensure school discipline policies and practices are in compliance with international human rights standards. Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) and restorative practices in school discipline should be used for reducing disciplinary incidents and improving learning in schools.

- Males should be separated from females in detention. Younger prisoners should be separated from adults. Alternatives to imprisonment for youth such as intervention and diversion should be explored.

- The Working Group recommends that health policies and programmes should place particular priority on access to quality and affordable health care with targeted goals to reduce maternal mortality of African American women.

- Consistently, the school curriculum in each state should reflect appropriately the history of the slave trade.

- The Department of Education should study zero tolerance policies and its disparate impact on African American students. A Taskforce should be created to specifically focus on realigning and reengaging students who have been dismissed from educational institutions as part of a zero tolerance policy.

- The Working Group recommends upholding the right to adequate standards of living including the right to food, right to water and the right to adequate housing. The Government should immediately halt the demolition of public housing without guaranteeing replacement units. All such activities must be undertaken only through prior and informed consent and participation of the communities affected.

- The Working Group urges the government to strengthen the implementation of 
Executive Order 12898 including through the allocation of adequate resources.

- The US government should undertake a review of policies to improve protection and ensure environmental justice is provided.

- The Working Group encourages the government to undertake impact-oriented activities in the framework of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).

The Working Group welcomes the cooperation and engagement with the international human rights system to combat racial discrimination. We hope that our report will support the Government in this process and we express our willingness to assist in this important endeavour.