Wednesday, 17 June, 2020

UNHRC to hold urgent debate on ‘systemic racism’ in US

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is set to convene an emergency session to discuss US police brutality and racial discrimination in the wake of recent state-sponsored violence against people of color in the country.

The UNHRC announced in a statement that the 47-member body would debate “systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests” in the United States on Wednesday.

The UNHRC said the decision was made after a request letter sent last week by Burkina Faso on behalf of African countries at the UN that have taken the US police to task for a surge in violence against African Americans.

“The death of George Floyd is unfortunately not an isolated incident,” the letter said, adding, “The shocking killing of George Floyd is rooted in a wider and intractable set of issues that will not disappear if we ignore them. It is time for the United Nations to step up and act decisively to help end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups.”

The unarmed black man lost his life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, after a white police officer had knelt on his neck for some nine minutes.

The 47-year-old’s death has sparked mass rallies in the United States and across the world, reigniting long-felt anger over police killings of African Americans and breathing a new life into the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.

“The numbers of previous cases of unarmed people of African descent who met the same fate because of uncontrolled police violence are legion,” the signatories to the letter said.

The “international outrage” provoked by the death underlined the importance of the Human Rights Council discussing these issues, the letter added, underlining that 600 activist groups and victims’ relatives had called last week for the convention of a special session by the body.

The anti-racism demonstrators in the US, already reeling from the brutal murder of Floyd in police custody, also witnessed the death of Rayshard Brooks, a black man killed by a white police officer in Atlanta on Friday.

Brooks’ death was ruled as a homicide on Sunday, with an examiner’s office confirming that he had suffered two gunshot wounds to the back.

Senior African leaders, including World Health Organization head Tedros Ghebreyesus, also called on the UN in their letter to “use its influence to once again remind us of the unfinished business of eradicating racism.”

Calls on US authorities have escalated to either defund, reform or abolish police departments after four weeks of street clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators.

Councilors in Minneapolis voted on Friday to pursue a community-led public safety system that would replace the police department following Floyd’s death.

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