International lawyers and activists organize independent inquiry into US police violence

The National Lawyers Guild, together with the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, is involved in a project to organize an International Commission of Inquiry on Systematic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States. Steering committee members of the project include IC Steering Committee member and Africa Subcommittee Chair Kerry McLean; IC Co-Chair and IADL President Jeanne Mirer; IADL Bureau Member Lennox Hinds; NCBL President Nana Gyamfi; former NLG Executive Director Pooja Gehi, among a number of others.

Read or listen to the following report – featuring interviews with Kerry McLean and Lennox Hinds – for more details on this important project. We will be sharing more details about the project in the coming period. If you are part of another human rights or legal organization that would like to endorse the International Commission of Inquiry, please do contact

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International lawyers and activists organize independent inquiry into US police violence

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By Rupa Shenoy

It’s been more than six months since George Floyd’s killing by police on May 25 sparked worldwide protests, and led the United Nations Human Rights Council to consider creating a commission to investigate police violence in the US. That didn’t happen, but the international network of lawyers and activists who feel such an inquiry is needed didn’t give up.

Work started almost immediately on an alternative investigative commission that would hold hearings, write a report, and deliver it to the UN Human Rights Council. The drive to create the inquiry was started by retired Rutgers University professor Lennox Hinds. It plans to hold hearings from Jan. 18 to Feb. 6. Hinds meticulously recruited prominent international figures as the commissioners.

“We anticipate there would be pushback,” Hinds told The World. “And one of the first things that they will do is disparage the credibility of the commissioners, and so, therefore, we sought individuals who have an international reputation, and their report cannot be dismissed out-hand (sic) by the United States.”

None of the 12 commissioners are from the US. They include prominent lawyers, advocates, professors, judges and UN special rapporteurs from South Africa, Nigeria, Japan, India, France, Costa Rica, the UK and Jamaica. One, Hina Jilani, founded Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission and sits on the council of The Elders, a global group of human rights advocates created by Nelson Mandela. Another is professor Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of West Indies, who’s now at the University of Glasgow, and helped negotiate that school’s decision to pay millions in reparations for its role in the slave trade.

The commission’s hearings are being organized by leaders from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and the National Lawyers Guild, including international human rights lawyer Kerry McLean.

“We don’t want this to be adversarial,” McLean said. “We want the [UN] high commissioner [Michelle Bachelet] to actually use this report. She’s not doing hearings, so we’re doing hearings.”

McLean said sometimes taking things to the international community does effect change.

“South Africa took that approach, reached out for international solidarity when they were trying to dismantle apartheid,” she said. “And this is the approach that we decided we have to take — since the powers that be in the US are still putting up such a strong fight.”

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