The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged states to dismantle law enforcement’s systematic racism against African peoples on Monday in a report entitled “Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers.”
Bachelet’s report casts “a spotlight on the litany of violations of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights suffered by people of African descent – on a daily basis and across different States and jurisdictions.” In preparing the report, Bachelet’s office consulted with states, individuals of African descent and experts.
The report identified strong similarities between 190 law enforcement officer-perpetrated deaths across the world. George Floyd and Breonna Taylor‘s deaths were particularly scrutinized. These deaths occurred mainly in low-level policing such as traffic stops, police responses to mental health crises and policing in the war on drugs. For violating African peoples’ human rights and committing crimes against them, the report found law enforcement officers were seldom held accountable for reasons including a “presumption of guilt against people of African descent.”
The report recommended Black Lives Matter groups be given funding as this movement is empowering African peoples to claim their human rights. This recommendation speaks to the systematic racism because it is inherent in having human rights such as those provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the onus is not on individuals to fight for their human rights. Those rights just exist.
Systemic racism needs a systemic response. There needs to be a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach to dismantling systems entrenched in centuries of discrimination and violence. We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd. I am calling on all States to stop denying, and start dismantling, racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress.
Other recommendations included that states adopt government-wide reforms and that the UN Human Rights Council “either establish a specific, time-bound mechanism, or strengthen an existing mechanism to advance racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement in all parts of the world.”