"Transformative change needed to dismantle racism and police violence": rights chief
The Human Rights Council embarked on a discussion over police violence against people of African descent on Friday, with a warning from UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet that “brutality and discrimination against people of African descent continue to occur”.
In an appeal on Friday for States to take action, the High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that “no police officer or any other agent of any State should ever be above the law”.
But she said wider prejudice in society and its institutions can only be addressed by digging deeper, and facing “the mass below the surface,” to understand “the roots of today’s inequalities and the unacknowledged and unredressed racism upon which they have grown”.
Her comments coincide with the US trial of a former police officer accused of killing black American George Floyd in May 2020.
Mr. Floyd, who was 46, died after an officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, sparking worldwide protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.
His killing also prompted widespread calls for a discussion of the issue at the Human Rights Council in Geneva barely a month later.
It resulted in Resolution 43/1, mandating Member States to look at systemic racism and human rights violations by law enforcement agencies against Africans and people of African descent – and to contribute to accountability and redress for victims.
This “opportunity for justice is denied to countless other families” of other black victims of police violence, Ms. Bachelet continued, adding that “so many cases involving deaths of people of African descent never make it to court” and “officials responsible for human rights violations are not being held to account”.
To help end racial injustice in law enforcement, the High Commissioner noted that her Office would present a report to the Geneva-based body in June.
It will outline “an agenda for transformative change” with proposals to “dismantle” systemic racism and police brutality against Africans and people of African descent, and to tackle impunity.
The upcoming report will also offer an analysis of Governments and the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officers to “recent, overwhelmingly peaceful, demonstrations for racial justice”.