USA: Lawyers’ organizations convene public inquiry into racist police violence in the US | Update

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Three lawyers’ organizations based in the United States (US) have assembled a group of experts from twelve countries to conduct public hearings into racist police violence against people of African descent in the US. The inquiry follows the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) 19 June 2020 Resolution requesting the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (HCHR) 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 people of African descent.”

Due to reported diplomatic pressure by the US, the HRC’s June 2020 resolution diluted the request of hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals for a full HRC Commission of Inquiry focusing on the US. In an attempt to ensure that the HCHR’s report adequately addresses systemic, racist police violence in the US, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the National Lawyers Guild convened an International Commission on Systemic Racial Police Violence against People of African Descent in the United States. The Commission’s hearings are held online from 18 January to 6 February 2021.

During three weeks of online hearings, twelve Commissioners, jurists from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Costa Rica, India, France, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and the United Kingdom, hear evidence of cases of the killing of people of African descent in the US. Giving evidence to the Commission are victims’ attorneys and family members.

The Report of the Commissioners will be sent to the HRHC to inform her June 2021 report.

LRWC joined hundreds of other NGOs in the letter and oral NGO statement that led to the HRC’s June 2020 Resolution. Marjorie Cohn, law professor emerita, author and activist is one of the four rapporteurs assisting with the hearings and the preparation of the Commissioners’ report. Ms Cohn is also a Director of LRWC. Ms. Cohn’s article, “George Floyd “Narrated his Death” says attorney at International Inquiry,” gives an overview of the hearings up to 26 January 2021.

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