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MRG’s reaction to the UN Special Rapporteur on racism’s report on ethnic and racial profiling

29 June 2015

Speaker: Mr. Glenn Payot

Human Rights Council – 29th Regular Session

Thank you Mr. President, Mr. Special Rapporteur,

Minority Rights Group (MRG) welcomes your report on the important issue of racial and ethnic profiling. We would like to make three comments.

Firstly, this discriminatory bias concerns primarily people belonging to visible minorities, including people of African descent, Roma, non-Slavic people or those of Arab origin, to name a few. It is however worth noting that profiling practices also affect persons perceived to profess a certain religion, especially those believed to be Muslim or originating from a country with a majority Muslim population. Ethnic profiling is often linked to, or overlaps with, religious profiling. Because a person’s religion is not always visible, it is not always clear which ground or combination of grounds underlies any individual law enforcement decision. MRG believes that any effort to combat racial and ethnic profiling should also address, in order to be effective, religious profiling.

Secondly, MRG would like to echo your concern regarding the lack of disaggregated data. It is striking to see that in Europe, the region that has produced the most complete set of standards, rules and guidelines to outlaw and combat profiling, only a very few countries gather disaggregated data. Once again, MRG stresses that gathering disaggregated data is a first step allowing states and monitors to quantify the problem, to identify the factors of discrimination and to use indicators to assess the evolution of the situation and the impact of measures taken.

Finally, Mr. Special Rapporteur, MRG believes that a legalistic approach to combatting racial profiling is not sufficient. The case must be made that ethnic, racial and religious profiling is not only illegal, it is also ineffective. According to its own report, when the US Customs Agency removed an ethnically based drug courier profile that was targeting African-American and Hispanic women, it more than doubled the frequency of contraband detection. Likewise, police units in Spain that instituted data-gathering to monitor profiling tripled the number of stops which yielded an arrest or other law enforcement outcome. Ethnic, racial and religious profiling leads to unwarranted attention to a group while overlooking legitimate targets who do not fit the profile. It alienates whole segments of society and it jeopardizes the necessary trust between law enforcement authorities and the population they seek to serve.