GENEVA (AP) — Three United Nations human rights experts decried rising racism and xenophobia in the United States, citing the white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, as the latest example and urging U.S. authorities Tuesday to punish perpetrators of hate crimes.
The call by the experts in a sharply worded statement — along with comments by politicians in Germany and Britain — demonstrated that the Charlottesville violence has the international community paying attention to the racial climate in the United States — regarded by many as a standard-bearer on human rights principles.
One of the experts, Anastasia Crickley, said the three were "shocked and horrified" by the weekend events and "the racial hatred of the white supremacists, of the right-wing extremists, and of the neo-Nazi groups" that flocked to Virginia.
She noted the "terrible and unfortunate death" of Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed by a car that drove into a crowd of counterdemonstrators.
Crickley, who heads the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination under the U.N. Human Rights office, said the events were "the latest example of an increase in racial discrimination in the U.S.A."
"There is an issue here that needs to be addressed by President Trump and by all of the United States," she said. "The legacy of slavery is still very evident throughout the United States, and indeed in many other countries, in the oppression of people of African descent."
Crickley sidestepped commenting directly on U.S. President Donald Trump's statements that there were "very fine people" on both sides in Charlottesville and "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."
Instead, she quoted a tweet U.S. Sen. John McCain sent out Tuesday: "There can be no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hatred and bigotry."
British Prime Minister Theresa May offered a similar view while criticizing Trump's remarks on Tuesday, declaring that there was "no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them."
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's main challenger in next month's election, Martin Schulz, said in an interview with media group RND that "the downplaying of Nazi violence in Trump's incoherent comments is highly dangerous."
In their statement, the U.N. experts expressed concern about the "proliferation and increasing prominence of organized hate and racist groups" in the U.S.
The other experts joining Crickley in the statement were Sabelo Gumedze, head of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and Mutuma Ruteere, a rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Crickley also clarified their call for an "independent investigation" of what happened in Charlottesville, saying that lessons needed to be learned from it.
"What we are calling for is an investigation that seeks to go beyond this particular set of circumstances," she said.