USA: Coalition calls for UN Inquiry into racist US police violence | Joint Letter

Full PDF Joint Letter 

On 10 May 2021, a coalition of hundreds of families of victims of United States (US) police violence and civil society organizations from all over the world, including LRWC, signed a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding implementation of the June 2020 resolution A/HRC/43/1 by the UN Human Rights Council. The civil society campaign for the 2020 resolution and its implementation has been led by the American Civil Liberties Association (ACLU). The ACLU-led letter points out that police in the US “kill nearly 1,000 people every year. The epidemic of police violence has been directly and disproportionately targeted at people of color. Indigenous People and people of African descent experience the highest rates of fatal police shootings, followed by Latinx people…”

The letter points out that civil society organizations and UN experts had called for a Commission of Inquiry. Instead, the Human Rights Council opted for a weaker, broader resolution for a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on racist police violence around the world. The letter states as follows:

The families of victims of police violence and many of our organizations have called on the Council to mandate an independent inquiry into the killings and violent law enforcement responses to protests, including the attacks against protesters and journalists in the United States. The Special Procedures strongly urged the Council to establish a commission of inquiry to “investigate systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States” and a “thematic commission of inquiry or other mechanism empowered to investigate systemic racism in law enforcement globally, especially where it is related to legacies of colonialism and transatlantic slavery.”

We recall that the original draft resolution called on the Council to establish these mechanisms; however, the Council adopted a watered-down resolution due to enormous diplomatic pressure from the United States under the Trump administration and other allied countries.

We urge you to support the calls made by victims’ families, civil society and Special Procedures by including in the report specific recommendations to the Council in this regard. We also urge you to remind Member States that the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism were grave violations of international law that require States to make reparations proportionate to the harms committed and to ensure that structures in the society that are perpetuating the injustices of the past are transformed. Furthermore, we urge you to call on Member States to adopt a national plan of action to eliminate systemic racism and racial discrimination and to double their efforts and allocation of resources to achieve racial equality including through the adoption of reparations schemes to remedy historic racial injustices.

In 2020, LRWC joined in several letters and statements to the UN Human Rights Council in the ACLU-led campaign seeking an an end to systemic racism and police violence against people of African descent in the US and around the world. LRWC members also contributed to the 2021 work of the civil society led international commission of inquiry on systemic police violence in the United States. Its report, issued 27 April 2021, has been submitted to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council.