Human Rights Developments

Racial violence and police misconduct in responding to racist incidents continued to be a serious human rights concern in England during 1995. Racial violence has increased dramatically in recent years, according to police figures. In the five years between 1989 and 1994, the number of violent attacks rose over 200 percent, from 4,383 to 9,762. It was widely recognized, however, that these reported figures significantly underestimated the actual level of violence. The official British Crime Survey estimated that racially motivated violent attacks for 1991, for example, were as high as 32,500, ranging from intimidation to verbal threats.

The government was outspoken against racial violence and encouraged initiatives by the police, community organizations, and legal organizations to find effective solutions. Positive steps to improve police response to racial violence, however, were offset by significant failures.

In addition to numerous incidents of police brutality, victims and community groups often reported that police were unable or unwilling to respond to racial violence, and that the police sometime threatened those who reported a racist crime or even arrested the victim. Many victims of racist violence ultimately stopped reporting such incidents because the police appeared unable or unwilling to investigate the crimes effectively. As a practical matter, it was sometimes difficult to determine to what degree and in which cases poor response by the police was due to a lack of resources, a lack of professionalism of senior officers, the inexperience of junior officers, a lack of effort, and/or racial bias. However, solicitors, victims, and community groups indicated that in cases where a lack of effort and racism played a clear role, there were few effective means for making the responsible officers accountable for their behavior.

The Right to Monitor

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki received no information to indicate that human rights observers in England were prevented from conducting their investigations and reporting on their findings during 1995.

U.S. Policy

The only significant statement by the U.S. government regarding racial violence in England appears in the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994. The report highlighted the continuing and substantial problem of racial discrimination throughout the criminal justice system, as well as in areas of employment. However, the report made no reference to police brutality against minority groups or to the inability or unwillingness of many police officers to respond effectively to incidents of racial violence.

The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki focused its efforts during 1994 on monitoring racist violence and investigating the ability of the criminal justice system to respond. In June and July, a fact-finding mission was sent to interview victims of racial violence, community organizations, solicitors, as well as with police and government officials. A report was in preparation as of this writing.

This report covers the events of 1995

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