New CERD General recommendation No. 36 on Preventing and Combating Racial profiling

New CERD General recommendation No. 36 on Preventing and Combating Racial profiling

On 24th November 2020, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published its General recommendation No. 36 on Preventing and Combating Racial Profiling by Law Enforcement Officials.

The Police and Human Rights Programme (PHRP) of Amnesty International (The Netherlands) welcomes the new General recommendation which comes at a crucial moment in time, when discriminatory policing practices are increasingly being denounced across the world – from the Black-Lives-Matter-movement, to communities being particularly affected by counter-terrorism measures or indigenous groups suffering from excessive and discriminatory use of police powers.

The re-affirmed recognition of ethnic profiling in the context of law enforcement as an existing, and very harmful policing practice, resulting both from individual conscious and unconscious attitudes as well as discriminating institutional practices, serves as an urgent call for governments and law enforcement authorities to take appropriate measures against this practice.

PHRP particularly welcomes the critical stand the Committee has taken on the use of new technologies, including facial recognition, the use of algorithms and more specifically predictive policing technologies, which have a high potential to lead to as well as to exacerbate existing discriminatory law enforcement practices.

It urges governments and law enforcement to give particular attention to the Committee’s recommendations for measures to be taken in order to effectively prevent and combat racial profiling, notably the following ones:

  • developing and effectively implementing laws and policies that define and prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement officials, as well detailed guidelines for stop-and-search practices with precise standards in consultation with relevant groups, in order to prevent racial profiling,
  • limiting discretion of law enforcement officials and increasing oversight in areas vulnerable to stereotyping and biases
  • monitoring and evaluating policing practices through the collection of quantitative and qualitative data on relevant practices such as identity checks, traffic stops or border searches,
  • creating an independent reporting and complaint system on racial discrimination and racism, as well as racial and ethnic profiling,
  • developing internal guidelines, policies and regulations to combat and prevent racial profiling and to ensure internal accountability by taking disciplinary actions against officials who violate them
  • instruct senior officials within law enforcement agencies to promote non-discriminatory policies and practices within their agencies, and monitor rigorously the conduct of staff, holding them accountable for misconduct
  • carrying out a human rights impact assessment prior and during the deployment of new technologies such as facial recognition technology and algorithmic profiling systems
  • publicly disclosing of the use of algorithmic profiling systems and meaningful explanations of the ways the systems work, what data sets are being used, and what measures preventing or mitigating human rights harms are in place
  • mandating independent oversight bodies to monitor the use of artificial intelligence tools by the public sector
  • ensuring due diligence by private companies involved in the development of algorithmic profiling systems, including not to sell or deploy an algorithmic profiling system where the risk of discrimination or other human rights violations has been assessed to be too high or impossible to mitigate.