A new report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has detailed systemic violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent and explains the agenda for transformative change towards racial justice and equality.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged States to act.

Referencing the tragic death of George Floyd in May 2020, Bachelet highlighted that “the status quo is untenable”.

She called on all States to “stop denying, and start dismantling, racism, to end impunity and build trust, to listen to the voices of people of African descent, and to confront past legacies and deliver redress.”

The analysis undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights involved online consultations with over 340 individuals of majority African descent and over 110 written contributions.

The report cited 190 worldwide police-related deaths taking place over the past decade involving Black individuals.

It uncovered three key areas where deaths at the hands of law enforcement officials have been most likely to occur:

  • the policing of minor offenses, stop-and-searches, and traffic stops;

  • the intervention of police as first responders in mental health crises; and

  • police-related conduct within the “war on drugs”, or gang-related operations.

UN Human Rights sought the views of member States, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, UN entities, community members and groups, and other key stakeholders in response to a call for submissions (English).

UN Human Rights engaged with relevant Special Procedures mandate holders. The voices of people of African descent who are victims of human rights violations and their families are central to the work.

Within the cases examined, the analysis indicated that victims repeatedly did not pose enough of an imminent threat to justify the level of force deployed.

The report also highlighted how following the deaths of their loved ones, victims’ families reported feeling “continuously betrayed by the system” and experienced “striking similarities” in the hurdles they faced in holding those responsible to account.

“Only approaches that tackle both the endemic shortcomings in law enforcement, and address systemic racism – and the legacies it is built on – will do justice to the memory of George Floyd and so many others whose lives have been lost or irreparably damaged,” said Bachelet.

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