GENEVA – A top U.N. body on racial discrimination has taken the unusual step of urging the United States to "unequivocally and unconditionally" reject racist hate speech and crimes after a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Its chairwoman called for President Donald Trump to take the lead.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination pointed Wednesday in a statement that didn't explicitly mention Trump to "the failure at the highest political level to unequivocally reject racist violent events" in the United States.
But in an interview, committee chairwoman Anastasia Crickley said Trump should take the lead in speaking out.
"In the statement, we say 'high-level politicians'," she said. "But I have no hesitation in saying that yes, we do indeed think it is important for the leader, for the president, of any country — including in this instance the United States where these things happened — that they take the leadership role of unequivocally condemning them."
Trump on Tuesday blamed the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to violence linked to the Aug. 12 protest in Charlottesville organized by white supremacists, which included an observation that "many sides" were to blame. He told supporters in Phoenix that he had "openly called for healing, unity and love" in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and had simply been misrepresented in news coverage.
The U.N. committee acted under its "early warning and urgent action" procedures that have been applied only 20 times since 2003 against countries including Iraq, Burundi, Guyana and Israel. The U.S. was previously called to respond in 2006 over treatment of a group of Native Americans, the Shoshone.
The U.N. says such procedures are directed at "preventing existing problems from escalating into conflicts."
In its statement , the panel pointed to its decision on Friday that calls on the U.S. government to investigate any human rights violations during the protest in Charlottesville, and make sure that freedom of expression does not promote racist speech or crimes.
Crickley acknowledged the committee was not a "court of justice" and had little authority to compel the United States to respond, but said the panel believed its decisions had "moral authority." The U.S. has ratified a convention that underpins the committee, and in theory is required to respond as part of its own commitments.
The decision by the 18-member panel of independent experts, which is linked to the U.N.'s human rights office, comes after Crickley and other U.N. experts last week said they were "outraged" over the Charlottesville events that included the death of a counter-protester.