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Africa wants UN rights body to open intl. probe into racism, police brutality in US

US riot police standing behind barricades during a demo near the White House in Washington, U.S. May 31, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Africa is demanding that the United Nation's top human rights body  launch a high-level investigation into "systemic racism" and “police brutality” in the United States and elsewhere.

A draft resolution put forth by the African states insists that an investigation is needed into "racial discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by law enforcement agencies against Africans and people of African descent and structural racism endemic to the criminal justice system, in the United States of America and other parts of the world."

The draft, obtained by diplomats in Geneva on Tuesday, draws global attention to “recent incidents of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators defending the rights of Africans and of people of African descent.” 

Massive protests erupted across the United States and many world cities following the killing of George Floyd, an African American, by a Minneapolis white police officer who pressed a knee to the victim’s neck despite his persistent pleas that he could not breathe.

The killing that was caught on camera reignited debates about the scale of US police violence and discrimination against people of color in the American society.

The document demands that the UN rights body open a formal inquiry into "systemic racism, alleged violations of international human rights law, and abuses against” black people in America and elsewhere.

It also urges the US government, as well as other relevant countries, to "cooperate fully" with the UN for the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry (COI).

COI is one of the United Nations’ top-level probes that only looks into major crises of international significance.

The aim of the probe, the African states said, should be "bringing perpetrators to justice."

The resolution will be put to a vote at an urgent debate of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday.

The Council agreed to hold the special meeting at the request of Burkina Faso on behalf of 54 African countries in the wake of Floyd’s killing, which triggered a global protest campaign calling for police reforms and an end to racism.

Hundreds of rights groups have already put their weight behind the worldwide anti-racism movement.

Rights groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, called on the UN body last week to launch an investigation into US police violence.

John Fisher, head of Human Rights Watch's Geneva office, has welcomed the African request for a COI into racism in America and said, "Systemic racism and police violence in the US have reached a tipping-point.”

He added that international bodies need to step in "when national processes consistently fail."

Jamil Dakwar, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's human rights program, has also warned against missing “the historical opportunity” of condemning "centuries of structural racism" in the US by voting against the COI.

"No country, no matter how powerful, should be above such scrutiny," he suggested.

The rights council's 47 members will vote on the resolution at the Council’s two-day urgent session in Geneva, which concludes on Thursday.

This is the fifth time in the Council's 14-year history that it holds an urgent debate on an issue.


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