UN report calls for end of 'impunity' for police violence against Black people


A UN report has called on the UK, US and other member states to end impunity for police officers who kill and violate the human rights of Black people.

They say that the call to punish police prejudice is intended to “reverse cultures of denial, dismantle systemic racism and accelerate the pace of action”. Included in their report is the appeal to translate the agenda into actionable plans and "concrete measures" to address these systemic issues.

In a statement on Monday, Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the current status quo as "untenable".

“I am calling on all states to stop denying — and start dismantling — racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress,” Bachelet said.

The UK and US are not innocent

The report's findings were informed by information from more than 190 cases in which people died while in police custody. Many of these occurred in the United States, including the murder of George Floyd and killing of Breonna Taylor. The case of Kevin Clark, who died in police custody at Lewisham Hospital in March 2018 after being restrained by officers, was also included in the report.

The heavily publicised case of Dalian Atkinson who was tasered to the ground by PC Benjamin Monk before being kicked in the head will also conclude this week. It could result in Monk becoming the first officer to be convicted of manslaughter during his duties in over three decades.

The report was commissioned following the murder of George Floyd last year which sparked the Black Lives Matter protests on a truly global scale. The police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd's murder in April.

The report acknowledges that the ensuing protests marked what it describes as “a watershed in the fight against racism”.

George Floyd


Reparations to consider?

States were also encouraged to consider reparations as part of a process to “make amends” through “wide-ranging and meaningful initiatives, within and across States."

This can include formal admissions and apologies, truth-telling processes, and other forms of restitution, according to the report. It is emphasised that reparations are not limited to monetary compensation.

Measures taken to address the past should seek to transform the future. Structures and systems that were designed and shaped by enslavement, colonialism and successive racially discriminatory policies and systems must be transformed. Reparations should not only be equated with financial compensation. They also comprise measures aimed at restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition, including, for example, formal acknowledgment and apologies.

At the heart of the report though is a message which has been reiterated continuously over the past year and that is to end the denial of systemic racism. The report says it is looking for states to fund processes to construct a “shared narrative” on enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans, colonialism and their lasting consequences for Africans and people of African descent.

However, this presents its own dilemma: if we still have leaders (however many there are) that view the empire through a nostalgic lens, and do not believe that its consequences have fed into the present-day inequalities we see across society, then it seems unreasonable to expect any work done to dismantle this narrative by these same actors to be undertaken in good faith. We await to see how, if any of the recommendations from the UN report are implemented.

The Report


Mayowa Ayodele


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