The hundreds of lives lost as a result of substandard and ineptly designed levees and the discriminatory treatment of African American hurricane survivors during and after Hurricane Katrina are widely known, but have not been fully recognized as human rights violations.
The U.S. government is obligated to protect the human rights to life and non-discrimination. These human rights are protected by a treaty known as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. (Click here to review the treaty.) This treaty became U.S. law in 1992. The U.S. government’s compliance with this treaty is periodically reviewed by the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee.
In July 2006 the Human Rights Committee convened a session in Geneva, Switzerland to look into U.S. governmental actions affecting the human rights to life and non-discrimination on the Gulf Coast during and after Hurricane Katrina. At this session, U.S. representatives presented a report that omitted critical facts regarding governmental actions on the Gulf Coast, and completely ignored the human rights standards for internally displaced persons. AEHR and partner organizations presented information to the Committee challenging sections of the U.S. government’s written report as inaccurate because it omitted any reference to governmental actions that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and the prolonged displacement of Gulf Coast residents who are predominantly African American. At the conclusion of this session, the Committee recommended that the US government implement the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to protect the rights of displaced people, in particular African Americans and the poor. In addition, the Committee instructed the US government to submit a report by July 2007 that details the government’s follow-up activities based on the recommendation. AEHR will prepare a response to the government’s report.