Human rights experts are urgently warning about police killings of Black Americans
This 188 page report of The International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States is something I learned about this morning via The Skimm email newsletter is something I've been reading whenever I have a spare moment today.
It's long and this is a super busy time for me, so I'm 100% sure I won't be able to finish it anytime soon. Be that as it may, the Skimm provided a good summary of the contents:
Human rights experts are urgently warning about police killings of Black Americans.
Last year, families of Black Americans urged the UN to investigate the police killings of their loved ones. The request came amid racial justice protests following George Floyd's murder. But the UN had a rocky relationship with the Trump admin, and was pushed away from investigating the topic. So, a coalition of human rights lawyers and human rights experts from 11 countries carried out an independent probe into America's policing. Earlier this year, it held public hearings on 43 cases of Black Americans who died at the hands of police, as well as one case in which a person was left paralyzed. And last month, the coalition released its 188-page report.
What does it say?
That the deadly police killings of Black Americans could amount to crimes against humanity. And that police's "severe deprivation of physical liberty" and use of chokeholds amount to torture – a human rights violation under international law. They also called out other practices, including traffic stops targeting Black Americans, racially motivated stop-and-frisk, and disproportionate use of deadly force against Black people (both from guns and Tasers). Experts claim that America operates on two different justice systems: one for white people and one for Black people. But that's not all.
The report revealed the emotional toll this has had on Black families, as experts reviewed the cases of Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, and dozens of others killed at the hands of police. It's a toll only made worse by the rarity of police convictions. Investigators found that only 35 police officers have been convicted in the roughly 15,000 deaths by law enforcement since 2005. They blame the US's "culture of impunity" – where police officers don't fear accountability for their actions. And the ones who get caught are waved away by police unions, lawmakers, and the general public as just "a few bad apples."
What happens now?
Human rights experts are urging the UN's International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate America's policing and prosecute any human rights violations. And want the US gov to support demilitarizing and reforming the police by passing a few measures. That includes: the BREATHE Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and others that require independent investigations. They're also calling for an end to qualified immunity, as well as a ban on no-knock warrants and chokeholds. The US and the ICC have yet to respond. But the US isn't a member of the court so it may not recognize a ruling. Much of the report's recs would also require Congress's action.