Public Comment

Press Release: After Mehserle Verdict Community Should Turn to Human Rights Law

From the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
Tuesday July 13, 2010 - 09:45:00 AM

The Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute (MCLI), a Human Rights and international law think-tank, is calling for the use of United Nations treaties and treaty law in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant trial verdict. 

The murder of Oscar Grant by former BART police office Johannes Mehserle is a human rights violation and must be treated as such. As soon as the verdict was announced Thursday, the call went out to take the case to the United Nations. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that it would investigate possible civil rights abuses in the Grant case. MCLI calls for federal, state and local officials to utilize U.S.-ratified human rights treaties along with constitutional protections in their investigations and legislative processes. 

In May 2010, MCLI filed a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee enumerating the violations of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in the Oscar Grant case. These include Article 26 of the ICCPR guaranteeing equal treatment under the law without regard to race, and Article 10, which states that “all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”. The Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute is concerned that all of the rights ensured by applicable international treaties be honored. 

On the state level, MCLI is sponsoring a piece of legislation that would request the Attorney General of California to assist state, county, and local agencies in filing regular reports to the United Nations on the status of Human Rights compliance in their jurisdictions. This groundbreaking legislation, ACR 129, authored by Assemblymember William Monning (Carmel), has passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously. MCLI calls for swift enactment of this legislation to ensure that international standards of human rights are respected domestically. 

MCLI has testified in the California State Assembly in support of effective, independent civilian review of the BART Police Department, and urges that such review be legislated and implemented swiftly as well. 

MCLI notes that some see the Oscar Grant murder and the involuntary manslaughter verdict as an isolated incident, rather than as an expression of continuing racial discrimination. In response, MCLI points out that people from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, including long-time Oakland attorney, African-American community leader, and MCLI board member, Walter Riley, were targeted by police and arrested while acting in a legal and peaceful manner in after-verdict protests. 

“Efforts to treat all people fairly, equally, and with just accordance to the law are values all Americans can agree on,” points out Rev. Daniel Buford of MCLI, “which is why it is critical that we uphold all of our obligations contained in the United Nations treaties that the US has ratified.”