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 speaks 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.
- Rosalind Williams is an African American artist and curator who became a naturalized citizen of Spain 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 is senior advisor on ethnic profiling and police reform with the Equality and Citizenship Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative.
- James A. Goldston is the founding 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.