Racism in the US is rarely in the limelight when debating UN rights agency

Justice Dept. inspector general auditing body cam policies

GENEVA (AP) – George Floyd’s brother made a sincere plea for the UN’s most important human rights body on Wednesday and urged her to conduct intensive international investigations into systemic racism, the murder of black people by the police and violence against peaceful people protesters in the United States.

In a video message to the Human Rights Council, Philonise Floyd called on dozens of African countries to set up an investigative commission – the council’s most powerful control tool – to report on racism and violence against demonstrators by police in the United States.

The unprecedented effort to train a potentially awkward spotlight on the U.S., which calls itself the world’s “leading advocate” for human rights, is because it has no voice in the room: the Trump administration pulled out two years ago from the 47-headed body.

Floyd joined the UN human rights chief, the council’s independent rapporteur on racism, and many diplomats during an “urgent debate” defended by the Africa Group after his brother’s death. George Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer squeezed a knee in his neck for several minutes while begging for air and eventually quitting moving

“I’m my brother’s guard. You at the United Nations are your brothers and sisters in America – and you have the power to help us gain justice for my brother George Floyd, “said Philonese Floyd. “I’m asking you to help him. I ask you to help me. I ask you to help us – black people in America. ‘

The council has regularly addressed police brutality and racial profiling in the United States, and it was a major issue during its last turn five years ago for a regular review of the human rights record that all countries are reviewing.

But never before has the United States’ record in those areas sparked an “urgent debate” about that record in those areas – and some rivals caught on.

The Russian envoy accused the United States of ignoring racism for decades and mocked a “disastrous human rights situation” with the US representative of China, saying that his country was “saddened and shocked” by Floyd’s death, saying was not an isolated case. who exposed “chronic and deep-seated racial discrimination” in the United States.

US Ambassador to Geneva, Andrew Bremberg, acknowledged in a statement prior to the debate “shortcomings” in the United States, including racial discrimination, and insisted that the government be “transparent” in dealing with it.

US President Donald Trump has condemned the actions of police officers related to the death of George Floyd and signed an execution order on police reform on Tuesday.

“The United States recognizes and is committed to addressing its shortcomings, including racial discrimination and injustices resulting from such discrimination, which persist in our society,” said Bremberg. “Every democracy faces challenges – the difference is how we deal with it.”

The executive, Bremberg said in a statement, “was an example of how transparent and responsive our government leaders are in holding offenders accountable for their actions and reforming our own system.”

The UN-backed council, which is made up of 47 member states, also discussed a draft resolution by the Africa Group citing the United States. The text calls for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on “systemic racism” and violations of “Africans and people of African descent” in the United States and abroad.

Such work would be carried out “to bring perpetrators to justice,” the text states.

Bremberg called the United States the world’s largest human rights advocate, saying, “We are beyond control; however, any HRC (Human Rights Council) resolution on this topic mentioning countries by name should be inclusive, including the many countries where racism is an issue. “

“We call on all governments to demonstrate the same level of transparency and accountability that the US and our democratic partners use,” said Bremberg, and veiled references to Iran and China about their alleged human rights shortcomings.

He alluded to recent accusations of “concentration camps targeting an ethnic minority” and a policy of “systemic racial discrimination against African nationals during the COVID-19 crisis” – a reference to detention centers for the Chinese Uyghur minority and allegations of racial discrimination against black people in China during the coronavirus outbreak.

Bremberg pointed out how “another Member State brutally murders more than 1,500 peaceful protesters,” referring to a crackdown on anti-government protesters in Iran in November. That figure is much higher than the 304 people killed according to Amnesty International.

The United States has not taken part in any of the quarterly council hearings since the Trump administration retired in June 2018, citing an alleged anti-Israeli bias and acceptance of autocratic states violating rights as members. The United States has the right to respond to the debate as an “affected country”, but was not expected to use it – at least not personally.

The debate is expected to continue on Thursday, when a vote on the African resolution could come. This week, the council resumed the last week of its scheduled March session, which was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many countries, including other Western countries such as the United States, requested more time to discuss the Africa Group resolution, but expressed overwhelming support for efforts to combat racism.

Defenders of the resolution say such abuses are too common in the United States despite a functioning legal system, and now it’s time to act – through more intensive surveillance.


This story has been corrected to show that George Floyd’s brother’s first name is Philonise, not Philonese.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.