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International Inquiry Finds Racist Police Violence in US Amounts to Crimes Against Humanity
A 188-page report released by human rights experts calls on international criminal court prosecutors to hold US accountable
A group of 16 human rights experts from around the world has found that racist police violence in the United States amounts to a “continuing pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence was formed after the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) succumbed to pressure from the US government and its allies and refused to appoint a UN Commission of Inquiry, instead ordering the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on the issue. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Conference of Black Lawyers, and National Lawyers guild then joined together and formed the Commission. From January 18 to February 6, 2021, twelve Commissioners held public hearings in order to investigate “the egregious and unjustified killing or maiming of individuals of African descent in the U.S.”
In a scathing 188-page report, the Commission outlines how the disproportionate use of excessive force by US police officers against Black Americans amounts to “violations of the rights to: life, security, freedom from torture, freedom from discrimination, mental health, access to remedies for violations, fair trial and presumption of innocence, and to be treated with humanity and respect.”
“In case after case, the Commissioners find evidence of an alarming pattern of destruction loss, and manipulation of evidence, coverups, obstruction of justice, and collusion between various arms of law enforcement in connection with the unjustified killings of unarmed persons of African descent. Police officers and their unions, prosecutors, coroners, and ‘independent medical examiners’ are accomplices in the service of impunity. The Commissioners also find a troubling pattern of creating false narratives and smear campaigns directed at victims and families.”
None of these findings are surprising. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) notes in a recent statement that “The US policing system has been racist since its inception during the slavery era.” Indeed, the first police department was formed in order to monitor Black slaves and prevent them from planning any resistance or attempts to escape. The ACLU has long called on the abolition of qualified immunity, which allows police officers to violate the law and even the constitution in the course of doing their job.
The Commission is now calling on the UN HRC to hold the US accountable for its racist policing practices and has made the following recommendations to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:
The formation of an independent Commission of Inquiry mandated to conduct a full investigation into incidents of police violence against Black Americans;
The appointment of an Independent Expert on Systemic Racist Police Violence in the US;
A formal UN call for demilitarization of US law enforcement;
A formal UN call for an end to qualified immunity;
A full investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Unfortunately, the US has long opposed the authority of the ICC. In June of 2020, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order making it possible for the US to level sanctions against the ICC. In light of this policy, it seems unlikely that the ICC will move to take any action against the US, especially given the UN’s previous capitulation on the issue.
You can read the full Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States here.
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