* U.N. panel issues rare statement on U.S. racial violence
* Stops short of censuring Trump by name, but calls for leadership
* Experts warn that failure to condemn could lead to more violence (Adds details)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - U.N. human rights experts called on the United States and its leadership on Wednesday to “unequivocally and unconditionally” condemn racist speech and crimes, warning that a failure to do so could fuel further violent incidents.
The “early warning and urgent action” statement, reserved for serious situations, was issued by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), although it stopped short of criticising U.S. President Donald Trump by name.
Trump drew widespread condemnation when he blamed both sides for violence that broke out at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., organised by neo-Nazis and white nationalists. One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed after a man linked to the white nationalists drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
CERD said it was “disturbed by the failure at the highest political level” of the United States to reject racist demonstrations. That failure could lead to “fuelling the proliferation of racist discourse and incidents” in the United States, the statement said. “We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred,” said Anastasia Crickley, who chairs the U.N. panel.
Trump again defended his response to the violence in Charlottesville at a rally in Arizona on Tuesday, and he threw in a promise to shut down the U.S. government if necessary to get a wall built along the border with Mexico.
The U.N. experts said the alleged perpetrators of the violence should be prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crime.
U.S. officials should also “address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination ... ”, the experts added.
They should ensure that freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly “are not exercised with the aim of destroying or denying the rights and freedoms of others”.
The United States is among 177 countries to have ratified the U.N. pact against racial discrimination. The panel monitors compliance and reviews countries’ records every few years.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Larry King