Published on Thursday, August 23, 2001 by Reuters
US Drug Laws Are 'Racist'
UNITED NATIONS - More than 200 activists, civil
rights leaders and celebrities urged the United Nations on
Wednesday to challenge America's drug laws in an upcoming
UN conference on racism, saying they discriminated against
African-Americans and Hispanics.
In a petition to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the signatories said the US war on drugs was "not a war on plants and chemicals, but on citizens and other human beings who all too often are members of racial and ethnic minorities."
The petitioners included actor Danny Glover; singer Harry Belafonte; New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson; Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; former New York City mayor David Dinkins and dozens of legislators, church leaders, scholars and scientists.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Annan had not yet seen the the petition, but he noted that UN member states were writing the conference document, not the secretary-general.
Whites use as many drugs as Latinos and African Americans.
But among those incarcerated for drug offences in the United States, 57 percent are black and 22 percent are Hispanic -- partly because the drugs they use, such as "crack" cocaine carry tougher sentences, the letter said.
"The war on drugs is rooted in racial bias," it charged.
The UN conference against racism is due to be held in Durban, beginning on August 31, but negotiations over the meeting are deadlocked over demands by Arab nations that the conference texts link Zionism with racism.
This has prompted the United States to threaten to boycott the meeting.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited