UN announces creation of international mechanism against racism and police violence

Resolution adopted at the 47th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is a tool to investigate violations against black people

Foto: Roberto Parizotti Foto: Roberto Parizotti

The HRC (Human Rights Council) of the United Nations adopted by consensus on Tuesday, July 13, a resolution that aims to “promote and protect the human rights of Africans and people of African descent against the excessive use of force and other violations by law enforcement officers”. To do this, the document presented by African nations provides for the creation of an international mechanism to investigate the causes of systemic racism in different parts of the world.

The new mechanism will have a three-year mandate and be formed by three “independent experts” in human rights who will be appointed by the President of the HRC under the guidance of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

According to the resolution, the purpose of this tool is to “promote transformative changes for justice and racial equality” especially with regard to the legacy of colonialism and slavery. The mechanism to be created will also investigate possible human rights violations by governments against participants in peaceful anti-racism protests. The experts can also issue recommendations proposing accountability and redress for victims. 

Camila Asano, program director at Conectas, said “the resolution is an important response for social movements and civil society organizations that are seeking concrete tools to combat racism and police violence against black people”. In her assessment, although Brazil was not mentioned in this resolution, the mechanism, due to its international character, can be used to investigate Brazilian cases. 

Legacy of colonialism and slavery

On Monday, July 12, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented a report on systemic racism around the world. The ADPF Favelas Case – through which civil society organizations and movements from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are asking the Supreme Court for a plan to reduce police lethality – is listed in the report as an example of the “way forward”.

“Behind today’s systemic racism and racial violence lies the absence of formal acknowledgment of the responsibilities of States and others that engaged in or profited from enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and colonialism – as well as those who continue to profit from this legacy,” said Bachelet at the presentation of the document.

The report of the Office of the High Commissioner and this week’s resolution are the outcomes of another historic resolution approved in 2020 when the HRC condemned racist practices by law enforcement, citing the case of the US police officer who caused the death of George Floyd. Although the diplomatic offensive mounted by the country watered down the text, it was the first time since the creation of the Council, in 2006, that a resolution was passed that focuses on a violation that occurred in the United States.

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