August 5, 2020

Families, Civil Society Orgs Endorse Letter on Police Violence to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


On August 3, 2020, 143 families of victims of police violence and over 360 civil society organizations endorsed a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the implementation of the recent Human Rights Council Resolution (A/HRC/43/L.50) adopted on June 19, 2020. This resolution followed an Urgent Debate “on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests.” The letter was spearheaded by the ACLU and the US Human Rights Network, with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, along with human rights clinics at the University of Chicago and Duke University, as well as NGOS around the world, signing on.

Addressed to H.E. Michelle Bachelet, the letter says:

“As you know, the resolution has mandated your office, with the assistance of relevant Special Mandate Holders, ‘to prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent, to contribute to accountability and redress for victims.’ The resolution has also requested that your office ‘examine government responses to antiracism peaceful process peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists.’ In addition, the resolution also requested that the High Commissioner ‘include updates on police brutality against Africans and people of African descent in all her oral updates to the Council.’

While we were disappointed that the Council adopted a watered-down resolution due to enormous diplomatic pressure from the United States and other allied countries, we consider the outcome of the urgent debate a crucial first step towards full accountability for systemic police violence against Black people in the United States and more generally against people of African descent around the world. “

The letter makes several recommendations to the High Commissioner, including asking the report to take into account a thorough examination of racist policing in the U.S. and globally.

The Clinic, along with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and Philando Castile, together with over 600 rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Human Rights Network, first sent a letter to the the United Nations Human Rights Council in June, calling on the Council to swiftly convene a special session to investigate the escalating situation of police violence and repression of protests in the United States.

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