UN Office of High Commissioner issues report on systemic racism in policing, calls for meaningful change

On June 8, 2020, the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and Philando Castile, together with more than 600 rights groups, petitioned the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the on-going crisis of police violence and systemic racism in policing resulting in violations of international human rights laws against people of African descent in the United States.

The HRC instead passed a resolution mandating the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on systemic racism and violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies globally. This sparked the launch of the International Commission of Inquiry, which released its report in April 2021. The Commission was convened by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Conference of Black Lawyers, and the National Lawyers Guild.

On June 28, the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued her long-awaited report and paper on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent, with sustained interest in the situation in the United States. Both pieces included multiple citations to the International Commission of Inquiry’s report as well as other reports produced by civil society organizations, advocates against racist police violence, and affected families.

The report focused on four action points:

“STEP UP: Stop denying and start dismantling
PURSUE JUSTICE: End impunity and build trust
LISTEN UP: People of African descent must be heard
REDRESS: Confront past legacies, take special measures and deliver reparatory justice” — recognizing the importance of reparations. The High Commissioner’s report also called for the establishment of an ongoing UN mechanism to monitor systemic racist police violence.


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