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‘It Requires the Entire International Community to Act’: Letter Urges U.N. Take Action to Combat Police Killing Black Civilians with Impunity

Law enforcement kills nearly 1,000 civilians each year in the United States. And in more than 98 percent of those deadly encounters, the officers responsible aren’t charged or criminally prosecuted, according to researchers.

The impact has been most poignant for hundreds of the slain civilians’ families who want to ensure police are held more accountable for robbing them of their loved ones. Hundreds of those families recently turned to the United Nations, petitioning the world peace organization to “investigate systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States.”

The families united with nearly 300 civic organizations in a letter to U.N. officials that asked for an international investigation into the climate of violence in the ranks of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

“Impunity for police killings in the United States, especially those of people of African descent, continues unabated despite the recent settlement in the George Floyd civil lawsuit and the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin,” the letter stated.

U.N. officials could not be immediately reached by phone for comment and did not respond to emails from Atlanta Black Star.

“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, and it requires the entire international community to act,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, said in a statement.

According to a Proceedings on the National Academy of Sciences study, police killings in the United States vastly outpace those in other industrialized nations. The Guardian reported that American officers rack up more civilian bodies in days than it takes cops in other nations years to kill.

That violence has been particularly terrorizing in Black communities. Police use of force represents a leading cause of death for African-American men between the ages of 20 and 35.

It’s a problem the American Civil Liberties Union labeled the “other epidemic” in a report that found Black people made up nearly a quarter of those wounded in 5,442 police shootings between 2015 and midway through 2020, despite accounting for just 12.5 percent of the American population. Blacks and Native Americans are both three times more likely than whites to be shot and killed by police per capita. It’s 13 times more likely that a young unarmed man killed by cops is Black than white.

The coalition included family members of 171 casualties of deadly police violence dating back to 1992. Among them were victims who became milestone rallying cries in the Black Lives Matter movement such as George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Michael Brown Jr., and Oscar Grant. About 270 human rights organizations across the globe also supported the alliance families. Among those organizations was ACLU, Article 19 and the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University’s School of Law.

The 13-page letter was sent May 10 to Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. It listed the names of 171 victims killed by law enforcement dating back to 1992 and their respective family members who support the initiative.

It calls for an end to the alarming trend of police violence against Black Americans and Africans across the globe.
In addition to asking the U.N. Human Rights Council to mandate an independent inquiry into the killings of Blacks, the letter campaigns for investigations in violent police responses to protests and attacks on journalists covering rallies and marches in the U.S.

“While we commend the Biden administration for leading a cross-regional joint statement on countering racism and signaling other policy changes to address racial inequities” it states, “we believe that a robust international accountability mechanism would further support and complement, not undermine, efforts to dismantle systemic racism in the United States, especially in the context of police violence against people of African descent.

The Human Rights Council adopted an international resolution in June 2020 publicly condemning systemic violence, officer impunity and disproportionate use of force against African-Americans.

The council commissioned Bachelet to prepare a report on systemic racism and international human rights violations against people of African descent, citing Floyd’s murder as an example.

In an Oct. 1 presentation to Human Rights Council members, the high commissioner said she continued to receive reports of police brutality and racism. Bachelet advised that each state needs an oversight committee with “an absolute commitment to ending impunity.”

Last month, an contingent of civil rights attorneys from 11 countries released a 188-page report condemning the U.S. for enabling law enforcement agencies to kill civilians without consequence.

The group, self-dubbed as the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the U.S., was established after Floyd’s death. The group of lawyers examined 43 police killings and concluded that laws and law enforcement practices in the U.S. do not align with international human rights policies.

“There has been a long-standing scourge of white supremacy and racial capitalism, as well as slavery and
its legacy, in the U.S. in which two systems of law exist: one for white people and another for people of
African descent,” their report stated. “Under the law, Black people are target, surveilled, brutalized, maimed and killed by law enforcement officers with impunity.”

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