On a brisk winter day in 1992, Rosalind Williams--an African-American woman and naturalized Spanish citizen--stepped off the train at a railway station in Valladolid and was immediately asked to produce her identity document. It was December 6, a national holiday celebrating Spain's new constitution--one of the most modern in Europe. Yet when asked why Williams was the only person on the platform to be stopped, the police officer explained that he was following orders: it was because of the color of her skin.
Williams produced her identity document, and took the number of his badge. Eighteen years later, after winning a landmark ruling from the UN Human Rights Committee on her case, Williams is still waiting for the Spanish government to issue a public apology and end ethnic profiling by police.
Today, racial and ethnic profiling remains a pervasive--and ineffective--practice across Europe. With security concerns heightened, the debate on profiling has only intensified.
At this Open Society Institute forum, Rosalind Williams discusses her personal experience challenging racial profiling in Europe, and what impact she hopes the Human Rights Committee's landmark judgment will have in her adopted homeland. Rachel Neild of the Open Society Justice Initiative talks more broadly about the prevalence of ethnic profiling throughout the European Union, and its ineffectiveness. Neild discusses the steps being taken to document and eradicate ethnic profiling, including innovative projects being carried out in cooperation with Spanish police. Jim Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative--which helped bring Williams' case to the UN Human Rights Committee--moderates.
James A. Goldston
James A. Goldston is the executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open Society Institute that promotes rights-based law reform and the development of legal capacity worldwide.
Previously, as legal director of the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center, Goldston spearheaded the development of groundbreaking civil rights litigation before the European Court of Human Rights, United Nations treaty bodies, and domestic courts in 15 European countries. In 1996, Goldston served as director general for Human Rights of the Mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where he oversaw monitoring, reporting and individual protection activities nationwide.
For five years, Goldston was a prosecutor in the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he specialized in the prosecution of organized crime. He previously worked for Human Rights Watch. A graduate of Columbia College and Harvard Law School, Goldston has written widely on issues of human rights and racial discrimination. He has engaged in law reform fieldwork and investigated rights abuses in more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. He is a Lecturer on Law at Columbia Law School.
Rachel Neild is senior advisor on ethnic profiling and police reform with the Equality and Citizenship Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative. Based in the Washington, D.C. office, Neild previously worked with the Washington Office on Latin America, the Andean Commission of Jurists, Peru, and the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights, Costa Rica.
Neild has also done consultancies on human rights and policing for the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, USAID, and Rights and Democracy, among others.
Rosalind Williams is an African American artist and photography curator originally from San Francisco. She became a naturalized citizen of Spain after marrying the Spanish documentary filmmaker Tino Calabuig in 1968. After experiencing racial profiling by Spanish police in 1992, Williams took her case to court, culminating in a landmark decision by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2009.
Rachel Neild, advisor with the Equality and Citizenship Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative, explains counterterrorism efforts that are based on profiling are ineffective because research shows "there is no terrorist profile."