29 Mar 2007

Human rights advocate attacks US over treatment of American Samoans

9:05 am on 29 March 2007

A human rights advocate has attacked the United States over the way it treats citizens of American Samoa, calling it a "shameful remnant of racism".

Human rights lawyer and former director of Washington's Robert F Kennedy Memorial Centre for Human Rights, Todd Howland, says the behaviour of the US is nothing short of "pathetic".

Mr Howland says he plans to go to the US courts to prove that generations of people in American Samoa and other US territories have been treated illegally.

He says American Samoans are the only US nationals that are also not US citizens.

He says American Samoans hold US passports and their head of state is the US president, yet they are excluded from voting in US presidential elections.

Many of their citizens are part of the US military and, American Samoans were subjected to the military draft to fight in the Vietnam war, yet the congressman they elect does not have voting rights in the US House of Representatives.

He says other US territories, including Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, cannot vote in presidential elections either, but are US citizens.