Use of lethal force laws for police in every single U.S. state fail to meet international standards, according to a report released Thursday by Amnesty International. Nine states and the District of Columbia do not have laws that govern the use of lethal force by police, researchers found. International standards only permit law enforcement to use lethal force as a last resort.

The job of police in the U.S. and abroad is challenging and often dangerous. But that reality doesn’t diminish what the report calls “a widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers,” coupled with repeated incidents of lethal force used under circumstances in which other options may have sufficed.

The use of lethal force has taken center stage in the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina; and Rekia Boyd in Chicago, among many other incidents. The repeated use of lethal force by U.S. law enforcement “raises serious human rights concerns,” the report found.

These findings should come as no surprise to people who are familiar with America’s relationship with international human rights law. The American criminal justice system has been the subject of attention from international forums that monitor human rights abuses: The United Nations Human Rights Committee has repeatedly expressed its concern regarding the incarceration of juveniles, use of the death penalty, and police brutality in the U.S. Since 2002, the U.S. hasn’t endorsed, or ratified, any international human rights treaties, according to Human Rights Watch. These include international standards that govern the rights of children, discrimination against women, the use of torture, and the rights of people with disabilities.


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