United Nations holds an urgent debate on systemic racism, police brutality

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The United Nations’ top human rights body will on Wednesday engage in an urgent debate on systemic racism and police brutality directed at black people in the United States.

The Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, acceded to a request from the 54-member Africa Group for the debate, while the bloc has circulated a hard-hitting draft resolution that would set up an international commission of inquiry into police racism and police violence in, but not limited to the US.

The move in Geneva follows the outpouring of grief and frustration after the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a white former police officer and three colleagues in Minneapolis on May 25th.

The US is no longer a member of the council after its spectacular withdrawal from in 2018 citing chronic bias against Israel but will be permitted to participate in a debate it is the subject of.

UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed said the scourge of racism violated the UN Charter and debases its core values.

“When I consider the beauty of my diversity and the amazing diversity of race. When I consider that we are born equal, only to find that the colour of one’s skin sentences us to a life of discrimination and injustice, I ask myself, I ask all of you, I ask people everywhere: How can we possibly continue to turn the other way?

“Enough is enough. The world must rise to end racism in all it obnoxious forms. Let us turn the page of history today by making this a turning point when we agree that all humans have the right to thrive with dignity and freedom from racism and discrimination in all its forms,” Mohammed lamented.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the killing of George Floyd an act of gratuitous brutality and warned that reform should not be limited to institutions but must address pervasive racism that entrenches inequality.

“Today’s protests are the culmination of many generations of pain and long struggles for equality. Too little has changed, over too many years. We owe it to those who have gone before, as well as those to come, to seize the moment – at long last – to demand fundamental change and insist upon it. As 20 of my fellow senior UN leaders, each of African origin or descent, jointly wrote this week, “to merely condemn expressions and acts of racism is not enough. We must go beyond and do more.”

‘Black lives do not matter in US’

George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, also participated through a video message to the Human Rights Council Debate and expressed the view that his brother’s brutal death was a clear indication that black lives do not matter in the United States. He urged the body to institute an international commission of inquiry.

“You watched my brother die. That could have been me. I am my brother’s keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers and sisters’ keepers in America, and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd. I am asking you to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us- Black people in America. I hope that you will consider establishing an independent commission of inquiry to investigate police killings of Black people in America and the violence used against peaceful protestors.”

This is only the 5th urgent debate in the Council following one on the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010 and three more focused on the situation in Syria.