ACLU Urges UN to Address US Police Brutality

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released a statement demanding, along with a coalition of 600 other human rights groups, that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) hold a special meeting to address US police brutality.

The goal, a global response to the issue, comes in hope of finding the U.S. in violation of international laws surrounding repression of protests and treatment of citizens.

File photo of a UN session

The ACLU urged the UNHRC to begin an independent inquiry into not only police brutality but also the treatment of journalists and protesters in demonstrations, and the indiscriminate use of tear gas (a weapon banned in international warfare), rubber bullets and pepper spray on civilians.

The goal is that the inquiry will result in recommendations to the U.S. of how to change its behavior.

The ACLU also demanded that the “right to peaceful assembly and demonstration… be protected,” noting that repression of protests and police brutality violate the following international treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and the International Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

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In order for a special UN session to be held, one-third of member states must agree to it.

In a letter to the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of victims of unarmed Black people killed by police, the groups wrote, “We are deeply concerned about the escalation in violent police responses to largely peaceful protests in the United States, which included the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and in some cases live ammunition, in violation of international standards on the use of force and management of assemblies including recent U.N. Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons.

The letter adds, “Our greatest concern is that the violence and counter-violence are diverting the gaze of the global community away from the pain being expressed by a nation in mourning over the callous manner of the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that ended George Floyd’s life while a group of police stood and watched, about the death of more than 100,000 souls from the coronavirus – disproportionately killing Black, Brown and Indigenous Peoples – and about how injustice never ends and equality never comes.

There is serious concern that the tear gas and police-induced havoc will obscure the legitimate passion of these demonstrations. The voices of the demonstrators must be heard. Their demand is that the endemic racism, hatred, fear and disparity finally be confronted.

They add, “The right to peaceful assembly and demonstration must be protected. This mandate is even more compelling with regard to the rights of minority communities, especially people of African descent, to speak out against racist practices they have endured for centuries.

The groups are therefore calling on members of the U.N. Human Rights Council to convene a special session of the HRC in order to respond appropriately to this situation of escalating human right abuses with the aim of mandating an independent inquiry.

Written by Nikki Suzani

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