Contact: Gina Lauterio
Telephone: 301-801-0608

Human Rights Watch Report Will Worsen Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice System, CPI Charges

WASHINGTON / September 27, 2016 – A leading criminal justice reform organization is today calling on Human Rights Watch, an international rights group, to remove its report, “Improving Police Response to Sexual Assault.” The non-profit Center for Prosecutor Integrity charges the report serves to bias the investigation, undermine the presumption of innocence, and harm the civil rights of persons accused of crimes, especially African-American men.

The Human Rights Watch report contains a series of recommendations that would severely distort the investigative process, CPI alleges.  For example, the report urges investigators to assume that “all sexual assault cases are valid unless established otherwise by investigative findings.”

The HRW document uses the word “victim” 350 times. Neutral words such as “complainant,” “accuser,” or “alleged” do not appear even once in the 40-page report. This reveals an unmistakable, even intentional bias because it presumes a crime has occurred before the investigation begins. These concerns were delineated in September 9, 2016 letter to Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth:

Joseph Roberts is an example of a person who was harmed by a “victim-centered” approach. Roberts, formerly a student at Savannah State College in Georgia, was expelled on an allegation of sexual harassment. Investigators did not interview Roberts before his expulsion was announced in a campus-wide email blast.

Roberts will be one of the featured speakers at an upcoming national Forum titled, “How ‘Victim-Centered’ Investigations Undermine the Presumption of Innocence and Victimize the Innocent.” The teleconference will be held on October 4, 1:00 to 4:00pm, Eastern time.

The teleconference is offered at no cost, and is being held in observance of Wrongful Conviction Day. Dial-in and other information is available here:

Victim-centered investigations are based on the notion of “always believe the victim.” In his acclaimed book, Jerrold Packard described justice in the Jim Crow era: “Blacks were found guilty upon mere accusation, with no substantive evidence offered, no adequate counsel granted, and no real attempt on the part of the courts to provide evenhanded justice.” (Jerrold Packard, American Nightmare: The History of Jim Crow. 2003. Page 133)