UN experts slammed ‘systemic racism’ against African Descent in US police, courts

Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 29th Sept. UN human rights experts on Thursday said that police and criminal justice systems in the US require urgent reform to eradicate “systemic racism” against people of African descent.

UN experts advancing racial justice and equality in policing published a new report after an official visit to America showed that Black people in the US are three times more likely to be killed by police than if they were White, and 4.5 times more likely to be incarcerated.

Dr Tracie Keesee, an expert member of the task force, said the testimonies she heard on how victims do not get justice or redress were “heart-breaking” and “unacceptable”.

“All actors involved, including police departments and police unions, must join forces to combat the prevailing impunity,” she said.

The experts heard testimonies from 133 affected individuals, visited five detention centres and held meetings with civil society groups as well as government and police authorities in the District of Columbia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis and New York City.

They stated that racism in the US, “a legacy of slavery, the slave trade, and 100 years of legalized apartheid that followed slavery’s abolition”, continues to exist in the form of racial profiling, police killings and many other human rights violations.

The experts condemned the “appalling” overrepresentation of people of African descent in the criminal justice system.

They expressed concern over instances of children from the diaspora being sentenced to life imprisonment, pregnant women in prison being chained during childbirth, and persons held in solitary confinement for 10 years.

The report noted that there are over 1,000 cases of killings by police each year in the country but only one per cent result in officers being charged.

They warned that if use of force regulations in the US are not reformed in accordance with international standards killings by police will continue.

Professor Juan Méndez, an expert member of the Mechanism said “We reject the ‘bad apple’ theory. There is strong evidence suggesting that the abusive behavior of some individual police officers is part of a broader and menacing pattern,”.

Mr. Mendez stressed that the police and justice systems reflect the attitudes prevalent in US society and institutions and called for “comprehensive reform”.

The report’s authors insisted that armed police officers “should not be the default first responders to every social issue in the US”, including for mental health crises or homelessness, and call for “alternative responses to policing”.

They highlighted the burden of a “work overload” on police officers, as well as systemic racism within police departments, which need to be addressed.

The report made 30 recommendations to the US and all its jurisdictions, including over 18,000 police agencies in the country. It highlighted local and federal good practices.

Prof. Méndez said “We encourage the good practices to be reproduced in other parts of the country. We look forward to cooperate with the US to implement these recommendations.”

Justice Yvonne Mokgoro (Chair), Dr Keesee and Prof. Méndez are on the team.

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