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Families Call for UN to Launch Inquiry Into Police Killings of Black Americans
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=51466"><span class="small">Ed Pilkington, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Monday, 10 May 2021 12:25

Pilkington writes: "The families of 165 victims of police brutality in the US are calling on the United Nations to set up an independent inquiry into the ongoing scourge of police killings of Black men and women."

A memorial for George Floyd. (photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
A memorial for George Floyd. (photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Families Call for UN to Launch Inquiry Into Police Killings of Black Americans

By Ed Pilkington, Guardian UK

10 May 21

Relatives of 165 victims of police brutality back by ACLU and 250 groups worldwide write to UN commissioner for human rights

he families of 165 victims of police brutality in the US are calling on the United Nations to set up an independent inquiry into the ongoing scourge of police killings of Black men and women.

With the support of more than 250 civil society groups from around the world including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the families are hoping to engage the UN in efforts to rein in police violence against African American communities. The call comes in the wake of last year’s nationwide and international protests following the murder of George Floyd by the now ex-police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.

In a letter sent on Monday to the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, the families call for an “independent inquiry into the killings and violent law enforcement responses to protests in the US”. They argue that such robust international accountability would complement the Biden administration’s efforts to “dismantle systemic racism in the US, especially in the context of police violence against people of African descent”.

Among the families who have joined the call are relatives of victims of some of the most notorious police killings in recent memory. They include the families of Floyd; Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whose 2014 killing by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, spurred the growing Black Lives Matter movement; and Daunte Wright, who was shot in a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, last month.

The letter to the UN comes two weeks after an alliance of leading human rights lawyers from 11 countries accused the US of committing crimes against humanity by allowing law enforcement officers to kill and torture African Americans with impunity.

The lawyers’ 188-page report found the US in frequent violation of international laws, including police murders and “severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution and other inhuman acts”.

The push to enlist the UN’s human rights council in a formal investigation is the latest effort by victims’ families and advocacy groups to hold the US to the same degree of international accountability that successive US presidents have demanded for other countries. So far the world body has resisted attempts to draw it into the controversy.

The first move to persuade the UN human rights council to stage an inquiry into US police brutality was made last June as Black Lives Matter protests erupted again across the nation in the biggest US civil rights uprising since the 1960s. Several families of victims of police killings, including those of Floyd, Brown, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Philando Castile in Minnesota, joined forces with rights groups to petition the council to intervene.

That effort was stymied after the Trump administration unleashed a diplomatic storm in the face of which the human rights council backed down. In place of a full international investigation focused specifically on US police brutality, the council authorized an inquiry into systemic racism against Africans and people of African descent in all relevant countries around the world.

In making a renewed attempt to bring the UN on board, the families of victims argue that the US represents a singularly serious case demanding its own international attention. The signatories to the letter point out that almost 1,000 people are killed by police in the US every year in what they call an “epidemic of police violence” that has been “directly and disproportionately targeted at people of color”.

In 2019, Black and Indigenous people were three times more likely than white people to be fatally shot by police in the US. “Stunningly, for young men of color, police use of force is now among the leading causes of death.”

Meanwhile, police officers who take the lives of Black people can assume a large degree of impunity. The letter says that between 2013 and 2020, more than 98% of killings by police resulted in no officers being charged with any crime.

“Police violence is not a uniquely American problem, but the impunity and disproportionate killing of Black, Brown and Indigenous people at the hands of law enforcement are,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s human rights program. “It requires the entire international community to act.”

Collette Flanagan, CEO of Mothers Against Police Brutality, said that after last year’s failed attempt she hoped the new push would have success.

“I hope that the UN will summon the courage to hold the US accountable for its violations of human rights, by establishing a commission of inquiry,” she said. your social media marketing partner