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
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.
has prompted the United States to threaten to boycott the
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