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Rights groups condemn Trump's attorney general nomination

Sessions was denied a judgeship position in 1986 for making racist remarks [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 November, 2016

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US rights groups on Friday condemned Donald Trump's nomination of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, citing his record of racist statements that led to him being denied a federal judgeship.

Donald Trump on Friday chose Senator Jeff Sessions to be US Attorney General in his new administration, causing an uproar amongst rights groups.

Sessions, a 69-year-old senator from Alabama is an arch-conservative with a much criticized record on race relations and visceral opposition to immigration, both legal and illegal.

In 1986, Sessions was denied a federal judgeship by the Republican controlled Senate Judiciary Committee for making racist remarks – only the second such decision by the committee in its 49-year history.

Sessions was accused of attempting to suppress African-American voters in Alabama, where he was serving as US Attorney, in addition to warning a fellow African-American prosecutor to watch how he spoke to “white people.”

The allegations came out during witness testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee as Sessions sought approval to be a federal district court judge.

During the lengthy testimony, Sessions admitted that, when told that a white lawyer had been called a "disgrace to his race" for defending African-Americans, he responded by saying: "Well, maybe he is."

It also emerged during the hearings that in the 1980s he allegedly addressed a black prosecutor working for him as "boy," and joked about the Ku Klux Klan saying he thought its members were "OK, until I found out they smoked pot."

Rights groups on Friday raised alarm at Sessions’ nomination to the office charged with upholding the civil rights of Americans, given his previous record.

“Jeff Sessions has spent his career trying to use the power of the government to restrict people’s human rights and civil rights,” said Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

“People’s right to live free of discrimination and persecution in the United States is at stake, and we are deeply concerned and troubled by this nomination,” Huang added.

“Senator Jeff Sessions has a disturbing record of racist statements, has said that he supports the use of torture, and has taken positions on immigration and the rights of LGBT people that pose a real threat to human rights,” said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, co-director of the US programme at Human Rights Watch.

“There is every reason to worry that under Sessions, the US Justice Department would simply not be in the business of protecting rights the next four years.”

Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump during his presidential campaign and is said to have become a close adviser to the real estate tycoon with no experience in government.

Donald Trump on Thursday picked Michael Flynn, a retired general who has repeatedly made anti-Muslim remarks, as his national security advisor.  

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