August 26, 2015
A delegate with the human-rights arm of the Organization of American States is traveling to Miami next month on a fact-finding mission into police abuses of African Americans in the United States.
The Magic City will be the first stop for Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, a commissioner of the semi-autonomous Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She plans to speak with police officials and Mayor Tomás Regalado on Sept. 21 before continuing on a five-day U.S. tour. Other stops may include Ferguson, Missouri, where the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a former police officer sparked racial tensions; New Orleans, and possibly Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was killed, according to correspondence with the State Department.
Attempts Wednesday to reach Belle and a second commission official involved in the planning of the trip were unsuccessful. Presumably, their interest in Miami is tied to a string of fatal shootings of black men in 2010 and 2011 that led Regalado to invite the Justice Department to investigate. Justice found the city’s police department had engaged in a pattern of excessive force when it came to pulling the trigger, and issued a series of recommendations in July of 2013 that have yet to result in a settlement.
“The main findings of this visit will be included in a report issued by the Commission analyzing the use of police force against African-Americans in the United States and its human rights implication,” Emilio Alvarez Icaza, executive director of the commission, wrote this month in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The commission doesn’t have the authority to enforce any recommendations. But the OAS comprises 34 member states in the Americas, including the United States, and the commission’s report could potentially embarrass the city.
Last week, the U.S. representative to the OAS notified a somewhat perplexed Regalado of Belle’s plans to visit. Anthony Pahigian referred to the organization in an Aug. 19 letter as a “globally respected human rights body” and encouraged Regalado to meet with Belle.
Regalado said he will sit down with her, though he said he’s not sure what she wants.
“We're going through the DOJ, which has the authority,” he said. “Not that they don't have any authority — well maybe moral authority.”
Regalado questioned whether the OAS was spending its resources on the right issues when other countries in the region have well-known human rights abuses.
“My question,” he said, “is why the Inter-American Human Rights Committee is doing this while they stand still on Cuba and Venezuela.”.