Printed in the United States of America. The authors of each chapter offer their acknowledgments below. The author would also like to thank community activists who provided valuable information and insights, and attorneys Brian Spears and George Weaver.
Death Penalty The author, attorney Stephen Bright, wishes to thank the entire staff of the Southern Center for Human Rights, where he serves as director. He also wishes to thank his capital punishment class at Yale Law School. William Shannon, Walter Britt, Gregory Smith and the other prosecutors, defense attorneys and police personnel in Georgia who provided critical insights and information. Joseph Katz provided invaluable help with the statistical analyses that are the core of this chapter.
Seckinger, whose generous provision of time and information greatly facilitated the preparation of this chapter. Deborah Blatt, a former consultant with the Women's Rights Project of Human Rights Watch, conducted the original research that was updated for this chapter. Children in Confinement The author, HRW consultant Mina Samuels, wishes to thank the many organizations and individuals in Georgia and other parts of the United States who assisted us in researching this issue.
We also appreciate the assistance and suggestions provided by members of the advisory committee of the Children's Rights Project of Human Rights Watch. A claim so large begs for evaluation. In this report, one of a series on the United States, Human Rights Watch offers an assessment of how Atlanta, and the state of which it is capital, actually treat human rights. Human rights issues may seem unrelated to a sporting event, but the Olympic Games have historically showcased the international community's respect for what Atlanta's application called the "justice and equality inherent in fair play.
Beijing lost its bid to host the Olympics because of China's gross and systematic violations of human rights, and Human Rights Watch was among the organizations that campaigned for taking its human rights record into account.
As the world's attention focuses on an Olympic site, it follows naturally that the host country's human rights record is of interest. And so it should be: It may interest visitors to Atlanta to know that the likely invisibility of homeless people will be largely due to city ordinances that prohibit entering a vacant building or crossing a parking lot without owning a car parked there; ordinances that assist police in clearing homeless people off the downtown streets.
And controversy has already arisen this year, due to local politics in the U. By decision of the organizing committee, the Olympic torch, on its journey from Los Angeles to Atlanta for the opening of the games, will bypass at least one county in Georgia because of a county resolution that denigrates gay people.
This, and much else about Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and the U. It is to be hoped that world attention may lead to improvements. For Human Rights Watch finds that state officials and public policies contravene fundamental human rights principles in a wide range of settings in Georgia.
Supreme Court in , has led to capital punishment primarily for the poor and for African-Americans-particularly when the victim of the crime is white-and this discriminatory impact compounds the abuse inherent in the death penalty itself.
Victims of discriminatory treatment in most parts of Georgiahave no effective recourse because the state does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. These problems are not unique to the city of Atlanta or to Georgia.
The custodial abuse, official neglect, discrimination and intolerance we have found in Georgia occur in many other parts of the United States, and those who commit abuses often go unpunished. The death penalty is available in thirty-eight of the fifty states; twenty-five of these permit the execution of offenders who were under eighteen at the time of the crime.
Forty states lack laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and no state is immune from police brutality. In Georgia, as elsewhere in the U. There have been some successes in Georgia, like state court-orders that have reduced prison guards' previously flagrant sexual abuse of women inmates.
But there have also been setbacks; efforts by local groups to improve the treatment of children in confinement have not been successful to date. As to the death penalty, the abuse is permitted by the U.
Supreme Court, though some local features of its application are peculiarly Georgian. And regarding discrimination against lesbians and gay men or local actions against certain books or topics in art, the federal government is distant from the events, when it should be acting to protect vulnerable groups and crucial rights, and to challenge restrictive state laws and resolutions.
Several pieces of legislation passed by the U. Congress during the current th session and signed by President Clinton, have undermined basic human rights protections throughout the U. For example, despite the fact that deplorable prison and custodial conditions and abusive treatment are routinely ignored by officials in Georgia and other states until lawsuits are successful, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which is now law, makes initiating lawsuits to improve treatment and monitoring of court orders to improve conditions stemming from those lawsuits more difficult.
The Communications Decency Act, signed into law as part of the Telecommunciations Act of , criminalizes on-line communication that is "obscene," "indecent," or "patently offensive" if the recipient of the communication is a minor. The constitutionality of the law is now being challenged by groups, including Human Rights Watch, arguing that"indecent" speech is protected by both the U. Constitution and international law.
Finally, as described more fully in this report's chapter on the death penalty, the federal government recently passed new habeas corpus restrictions that are unprecedented. The new law limits the ability of death row prisoners and other inmates to appeal state-court decisions to federal courts on constitutional grounds, despite the large number of state-court decisions that are currently overturned by federal courts due to state-court errors.
They also violate international human rights law, which is grounded in principles that the United States, and the state of Georgia, are presumed to share-principles like the individual's guarantee of free expression, the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, the right to due process of law, and the right to be free from discrimination.
We hold the state of Georgia accountable for abusive practices under international law because the commitments made by the United States to the international community are binding on all its states and municipal governmental units. We also hold the federal government accountable because, under international human rights law, the national government is responsible to the international community for compliance with international obligations by all entities within its jurisdiction.
Federal arrangements for the distribution of power are not an excuse for non-compliance. Americans Need Not Apply The standards of international law cited throughout this report in some cases offer better human rights guarantees than U. Over the past fifty years, the principles adopted by the United Nations in as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-have been formalized in treaties and protocols, reflecting an increasingly unified international consensus that basic rights must be guaranteed for all.
After the treaties are ratified by a country, they become domestic law. The United States has helped create these standards, but has been slow to apply them to itself. And when the United States has ratified key covenants, it has done so with such important reservations that U.
But both administrations, Republican andDemocratic, have imposed reservations, declarations and understandings that carve away any expanded protections for Americans. Principal among these is the declaration that none of the provisions are self-executing, meaning that they are not automatically available for Americans to invoke upon ratification.
They require passage of implementing legislation before they can be applied by courts. At the same time, the Executive Branch specifically declares that no implementing legislation is necessary.
The effect is that ratification is more or less meaningless for Americans who would invoke the treaties to see their rights protected. If, for example, residents of Georgia could invoke CERD's provisions, the disproportionate impact on African-Americans in the application of the death penalty and dramatic racial discrepancies in arrests and sentencing of blacks and whites for drug offenses could be challenged in court, because to prove discrimination under CERD requires proof of discriminatory intent or effect, while the U.
Constitution has been interpreted by courts to require proof of both intent and effect. The Torture Convention prohibits "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," as does the U. Constitution's Bill of Rights in slightly different language-but regarding the specifics of what constitutes such treatment, international standards that are considered the authoritative definition of minimally decent conditions for detainees and prisoners are more specific and protective of rights than is U.
And the ICCPR, which has been interpreted as covering discrimination based on sexual orientation, could help to protect lesbians and gay men from such discrimination and lead to the invalidation of Georgia's "sodomy" prohibition.
While it is not the primary subject of this report, the U. Findings Police Abuse Police officers and sheriffs' deputies in Georgia who commit human rights violations are subjected only to the public scrutiny provided by the media.
This is particularly notable in the case of Atlanta, the state's capital and largest city, wherethere has been no functional citizen review agency for the past several years.
Most of the smaller cities and rural areas are entirely dependent upon internal review by police and sheriffs' departments. This lack of transparency protects abusive officers and poor police managers.
State criminal prosecution of police officers in Georgia is made more difficult than in most other states by the use of special grand jury proceedings that benefit accused officers and reduce the number of indictments in police brutality cases. The chief of special litigation of the Georgia Attorney General's office objects to the special treatment given police accused of misconduct, and has labeled it "outrageous. Federal criminal civil rights prosecution of law enforcement officers is rare in the United States generally, but the rate of prosecution appears to be particularly low in Georgia.
Since , the U. Justice Department reports that only two civil rights cases were prosecuted in Georgia. Despite the difficulties in prosecuting these cases successfully-because jurors are predisposed to believe police officers, and the legal standard is rigorous in requiring willful deprivation of the victim's civil rights-this is an alarmingly low number of prosecutions in light of the serious abuses we describe in this report.
Death Penalty The application of the death penalty in Georgia is discriminatory, characterized by a denial of due process that particularly affects the poor and black defendants.
It follows on a tradition of unequal justice for African-Americans that results in capital punishment being sought and imposed most frequently in that small portion of homicides where the victim is white and the accused is black. That such partiality in the justice system leads to unequal sentencing is serious enough; when it leads to execution it blatantly violates the most basic principles of international human rights law and the U.
Like race, poverty can be a serious handicap for the accused in a capital case in Georgia. The system fails to provide adequate legal representation for the indigent, and in trial after trial, where decent representation could have led to a reduced sentence, poor defendants have been given the death penalty. Poor, mentally impaired defendants in capital cases have received the death penalty because court-appointed lawyers have failed to offer evidence about mental impairments that might have resulted in reduced sentences Drug Law Enforcement Drug laws in Georgia are not enforced equally against black and white drug offenders.
Official arrest and incarceration data analyzed by Human Rights Watch demonstrate the starkly disproportionate impact of the state's efforts to use the criminal law to curtail the consumption and distribution of illicit drugs. Both African-Americans and white Georgia residents use and distribute drugs, but black offenders have a much greater likelihood of being arrested and incarcerated.
Although more whites than blacks use drugs, including cocaine, blacks account for two-thirds of the arrests for drug possession and 84 percent of the arrests for cocaine possession. The disproportionate impact of arrest patterns is mirrored in imprisonment rates: African-Americans account for three-quarters of the persons admitted to prison for drug offenses.
They also received the most onerous sentences: Federal and Georgia state law enjoins discrimination on the basis of race. International human rights law is also implicated: The shocking statistics found in Georgia lead us to believe that, at least in this state, the U. Jail and Prison Conditions At adult facilities, and particularly in local jails, prisoners are held in dangerous, filthy and deteriorating conditions. In one county jail investigated by the U.
Justice Department, inmates were left unsupervised up to six hours of every eight-hour shift. If there had been a fire, medical emergency or prisoner unrest of any kind, the prisoners and surrounding communities would have been in danger.
The jail was also filled to twice its capacity, and prisoners were forced to sleep on dilapidated mats on the concrete floor. Prisoners at the jail were not housed to separate dangerous inmates from vulnerable ones, but the jail was racially segregated by the authorities. During the past decade, Georgia experienced explosive growth in its prison population; in the last three years alone, the number of inmates has increased by about 9,one of the fastest rates of growth in the nation.
This dramatic growth has been accompanied by tougher treatment of prisoners, and by allegations of physical abuses during intensive searches, described as "shakedowns," held atcorrectional facilities around the state and designed to uncover weapons, drugs, money and other contraband.
Sexual Abuse of Women Prisoners Prior to a federal class action lawsuit in , state officials entrusted with custodial power over the women's prison population in Georgia engaged in flagrant sexual abuse of their charges, abuse that included rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and violations of the right to privacy.
Although Georgia criminal law formally prohibited sexual contact between prison officials and prisoners, the law was not enforced, and the efficacy of departmental policies intended to prevent such abuse was belied by the impunity with which prison staff, including supervisory staff, engaged in sexual relations with prisoners.
Following the lawsuit, there was significant public and judicial attention to the spectacle of custodial sexual abuse, compelling Georgia to take meaningful steps to put a stop to it.