June 19: UN rights body to report on racism after Floyd killing
The U.N.’s top human rights body agreed unanimously Friday to commission a U.N. report on systemic racism and discrimination against black people while stopping short of ordering a more intensive investigation singling out the United States after the death of George Floyd sparked worldwide demonstrations.
The Human Rights Council approved a consensus resolution following days of grappling over language after African nations backed away from their initial push for a commission of inquiry, the council’s most intrusive form of scrutiny, focusing more on the U.S.
Instead, the resolution calls for a simple and more generic report to be written by the U.N. human rights chief’s office and outside experts. The aim is “to contribute to accountability and redress for victims” in the U.S. and beyond, the resolution states.
Advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the measure fell far short of the level of scrutiny sought by hundreds of civil society organizations, but nonetheless set the stage for an unprecedented look at racism and police violence in the United States — over the efforts of U.S. officials to avoid the council’s attention — and showed even the most powerful countries could be held to account.
Iran and Palestine signed on among the co-sponsors for the resolution condemning “the continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices” by law enforcement against Africans and people of African descent “in particular which led to the death of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 in Minnesota,” it says. Any state can sign on as a resolution co-sponsor at the council.
The approved text asks U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to examine governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests and to report back to the council in June next year. It asked her to also include updates on police brutality against Africans and people of African descent in her regular updates to the council between now and then.
The African countries that brought the issue to the Human Rights Council measure insisted upon the urgency of the moment, citing an exceptional chance to train a spotlight on decades of racial discrimination in the United States.
June 18: African nations backtrack on US UN probe
African countries on Thursday backed off their call for the U.N.’s top human rights body to launch its most intense scrutiny on the hot-button issue of police brutality and systemic racism in the United States, after American officials led back-channel talks to air opposition to the idea, diplomats said.
The Africa Group was reworking a draft resolution but had already cut out language calling on the Human Rights Council to set up a commission of inquiry — its most potent tool of scrutiny — to examine issues like systemic racism and abuse against “Africans and of people of African descent” in the U.S. and beyond, said the diplomats, who were part of the talks.
Once tabled, the text was expected to come up for a vote on Friday or Monday, the council office said. The wording of the text could still change, diplomats cautioned.
The diplomats, from Western and African countries, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The “outreaching” — as one European diplomat put it — by U.S. officials to other delegations on the issue comes even though the United States sits on the sidelines: The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the 47 member-state council in 2018, citing its alleged anti-Israel bias and acceptance of autocratic regimes with pock-marked rights records as members.
The council on Thursday wrapped up an urgent debate on racism and police brutality that was called in the wake of the George Floyd killing last month that sparked Black Lives Matter protests worldwide. But the draft resolution from the Africa Group was still being finalized, diplomats said.
Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving.
The European diplomat said the U.S. government clearly opposed any such commission, and he insisted the U.S. and others “will have to maneuver very carefully: Racism is an important subject … you have to be on the right side of history.”
Another European diplomat credited the Africa Group for taking more time to flesh out its resolution and give other delegations time to send it back to their capitals. African negotiators “did not want to create chaos and a mess … Everybody wants it to be adopted by consensus,” he said.
One West African diplomat said “pushback” from powerful countries in such cases was common, and the U.S. was no exception. Asked whether U.S. officials had pressured any countries, a diplomat from southern Africa quipped: “What do you think? I think you know the answer.”
In a statement to reporters Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Andrew Bremberg acknowledged “shortcomings” in the United States including racial discrimination and that “we are not above scrutiny,” but said “any resolution on the topic that calls out countries by name should be inclusive, noting the many countries where racism is a problem.”
Some Western countries argued the U.S. is a democracy with a solid, transparent legal system and didn’t deserve the same level of commission-of-inquiry scrutiny like that trained on countries like Syria, whose government has fought a civil war has left hundreds of thousands of people dead.
Rivals like China and Russia derided America’s longstanding troubles with racial discrimination, and African states insisted that now is the time to help the United States to address and rectify its past shortcomings with racism and police brutality against black citizens once and for all.
June 16: African nations drag US to UN human rights council
African nations have prepared a draft resolution at the U.N.’s top human rights body that singles out the United States and would launch intense international scrutiny of systemic racism against people of African descent in the wake of recent high-profile killings of blacks by American police.
The draft text, a copy of which has been obtained by The Associated Press, could become the centerpiece for an urgent debate hastily scheduled for Wednesday for the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
It calls for a Commission of Inquiry — the rights body’s most powerful tool to inspect human rights violations — to look into “systemic racism” and alleged violations of international human rights law and abuses against “Africans and of people of African descent in the United States of America and other parts of the world recently affected by law enforcement agencies” especially encounters that resulted in deaths.
Such work would be carried out “with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice,” said the text, circulated by the Africa Group in the council. The breadth of support for the measure was not immediately clear. The U.S. mission in Geneva declined immediate comment on the draft resolution.
President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 47-member body two years ago, accusing it of an anti-Israel bias and of accepting members from some autocratic governments that are serial rights violators.
On Monday, the council agreed unanimously to hold the urgent debate on “racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests” in the wake of the George Floyd killing in the United States.
May 29: US must sit up, eliminate racial discrimination: AU on George Floyd ‘murder’
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat has waded into the death of a black American man, George Floyd at the hands of police in the United States.
The AUC chair issued a statement on the development on Friday voicing condemnation of the violence, rejection of discrimination and intensify call to action on the part of Washington.
According to him, the US must intensify efforts to eliminate forms of ethnic and racial discrimination. He said the AU rejected ongoing discriminatory practices against black citizens of the US.
2/3Recalling the historic OAU Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the USA made by African HeadsofState at the OAU’s 1st Assembly in Cairo,Egypt from 17-24 July 1964,I reaffirm+reiterate the AU’s rejection of continuing discriminatory practices against Black citizens of the USA
— Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) May 29, 2020
George Floyd, 46, died in police custody earlier this week. The incident whipped up the #BlackLivesMatter movement especially after the viral video of a white police officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly said he could not breathe.
A series of violent demonstrations have taken place across the country. President Trump warned that looting will not be countenanced and that the National Guard could be deployed especially to Minneapolis. The police officer in question has since been arrested and charged.
Over in South Africa, the Economic Freedom Fighter, EFF, also lambasted the US in a statement calling on African countries to call the US government to exercise restraint and to “call on Trump to seize from his genocidal deployment of the military against protesters.”