The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday highlighted the global “scourge” of systemic racism and ordered an independent investigation into racially-fuelled police violence around the world.
In a resolution brought by a group of African countries, the council harshly condemned “continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by many law enforcement officials against Africans and people of African descent.”
The text, which was adopted without a vote, decried “systemic racism in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems,” and the need to bring offenders to justice.
It ordered the creation of an “international independent expert mechanism” to “advance racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement in all parts of the world.”
The experts, who will be appointed by the council president with a three-year mandate, will be asked to conduct country visits and to consult with states and affected communities and individuals.
The team will examine “the root causes of systemic racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, the excessive use of force, racial profiling”.
It will also probe other police violations that “may lead to disproportionate and widespread interaction between law enforcement officers and Africans and people of African descent.”
The experts will also “investigate governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests” and “any nexus between supremacist movements and actors within law enforcement and the criminal justice system”.
Their main task will be promoting racial justice and equality in law enforcement around the world, the impact of “legacies of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade in enslaved Africans”, and accountability and redress for victims.
The resolution follows a report published last month by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on systemic racism, called for after last year’s murder of George Floyd by a white US police officer.
It found that in many countries in Europe and the Americas, people of African descent disproportionately live in poverty and face serious barriers in accessing education, healthcare and employment, as well as political participation and other fundamental human rights.
While calling for countries to immediately dismantle all forms of systemic racism, the report made a particular emphasis on racially-biased policing practices.
Bachelet’s office received information about at least 190 deaths of Africans and people of African descent at the hands of law enforcement officials — nearly all of them in the Americas and Europe.
Presenting the report to the council Monday, Bachelet also stressed the “urgent need to confront the legacies of enslavement … colonialism and successive racially discriminatory policies and systems, and to seek reparatory justice.”