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United Nations calls for action on behalf of alleged police torture victims in Chicago

United Nations urges action in Chicago Police torture cases
United Nations urges action in Chicago Police torture cases 02:37

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A local group fighting for justice for alleged victims of torture by Chicago Police has received a helping hand from the United Nations.

The alert came from the UN's Special Rapporteur on Racial Discrimination, who said local efforts to address Chicago Police torture have been "piecemeal and far too slow in implementation."

Denise Spencer is a member of the group Mothers of the Kidnapped – which in turn is part of a larger group called MAMAS Collective. She said the torture her then-19-year-old son Michael Carter experienced at the hands of Chicago Police isn't just an allegation—she witnessed it.

"The thing about that—I was there," said Spencer. "I came in on them beating him up. I walked in the police station, and I can hear from the first floor."

Spencer said her son has been wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he did not commit since 1999. Over the last 25 years, she has found strength in other mothers in the same agonizing position.

"When they lock our children up, we're locked up with them. We're being tortured with them. We've been abused with them," said Spencer, "because we're walking in this walk with them."

MAMAS Collective brings families like Spencer's together through activism. "MAMAS" stands for "Mamas Advocating Movements for Abolition and Solidarity."

"Noot only our group, but, you know, decades of activism and organizing—predominantly Black-led or rooted in Black communities in Chicago—have been fighting the struggle to free Chicago's police torture survivors," said Nadine Naber the co-director of MAMAS Collective and a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Naber said MAMAS Collective - in conjunction with other groups — reached out to the United Nations four years ago about 22 local cases, because other avenues to get these cases re-investigated locally were so backlogged.

"And it led to this massive result," said Naber.

The United Nations Human Rights Council reviewed those cases, and last week officially called for action from local leaders.

UN experts said in part: "Chicago has a long history of law enforcement officials reportedly using torture to extract confessions to serious crimes. These heinous alleged human rights violations appear to a significant extent to be rooted in systemic racism and have disproportionately affected people of African and Latin American descent."

"It was Black and Latinx working-class mothers of police torture survivors who have been doing this research for decades," Naber said.

Naber and Spencer said unfortunately, the situation needed global attention—for the sake of torture victims, but also their grieving families.

"Sometimes, you just need to hear and listen, you know? Just listen to what I'm going through," said Spencer. "Thank God for the United Nations for listening."

The United Nations said they contacted federal, state and local officials. They did not specify which agencies, but they have 60 days to respond.

There had been no response as of late Monday from the Chicago Police Department or any Illinois officials who received the UN report. The Cook County State's Attorney's office released this statement:

<blockquote>"The CCSAO is not in receipt of this report. However the Foxx Administration is keenly aware of the inequities that plague Cook County. Since taking office, State's Attorney Foxx has made groundbreaking strides in addressing the systemic racism found in our criminal justice system including overturning 250 wrongful convictions tied to police misconduct and expunging over 15,000 cannabis convictions following its legalization. 

"Mostly recently, she has proposed a policy that would stop the prosecution of gun cases that stem from non safety related traffic stops that unfairly target Black and Brown drivers and result in the recovery of a firearm in only one in 1,000 stops."</blockquote>

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