The systematic killing and mutilation of unarmed blacks by the police is tantamount to crimes against humanity that must be investigated and prosecuted. These are the conclusions reached by leading human rights lawyers from 11 countries, writes the British The Guardian.
Human rights activists have investigated and drafted an 188-page “devastating report” on the brutality of American law enforcement. According to experts, the United States is responsible for “a long history of violations of international law, which in some cases reach the level of crimes against humanity”.
Human rights defenders point to what they call “police killings” and “torture, harassment and other inhuman acts” as a systematic attack on black populations that fall under the definition of such crimes. They call on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to immediately begin an investigation and bring the American authorities to justice.
“This conclusion about crimes against humanity was not made at random. We included it in the report, clearly being aware of ourselves”, – Hina Jilani, one of the 12 panelists who were investigating, told The Guardian.
“We examined all the facts and came to the conclusion that there are situations in the United States that require urgent examination of the ICC”.
Among other things, the commission accuses the United States of:
– violation of international human rights obligations, both in terms of laws governing police activities and in terms of the practice of law enforcement officials, including stopping and searching on racial grounds;
– in tolerance for the “alarming nationwide model of disproportionate use of lethal force”, which includes not only firearms, but also shockers, against blacks;
– in the application of a “culture of impunity”, in which the police are rarely held accountable, and the killings they commit are treated as the actions of “a few black sheep”.
Jilani, who is president of the World Organization Against Torture, said the conviction in the murder of George Floyd only confirmed the commission’s point of view:
“It became clear to us that the use of force during the arrest of a person is not just inhuman, it is clearly tantamount to torture and potential death of people”.
The report by human rights activists was directly triggered by the protests that gripped the United States after the assassination of Floyd. Families whose relatives have died at the hands of police officers in recent years have petitioned the UN to conduct a formal investigation into the crimes.
However, under strong pressure from the Trump administration, the UN refused to participate in this dispute. So she was replaced by a coalition of three leading lawyers’ organizations – the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Guild of Jurists and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers – which joined forces to conduct its own independent investigation of police brutality in the United States, the British newspaper explains.
A group of experts from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean met to study police violence and the underlying structural racism.
A virtual public hearing was held earlier this year with testimonies from the families of the victims of some of the most high-profile murders committed by American law enforcement officers in recent memory. The commission considered 44 cases of policemen killing or maiming African Americans. Including the case of Sean Bell, who died on his own wedding day in 2006 after the police fired 50 bullets at him, The Guardian draws attention.
Jilani told the publication that as a Pakistani native and involved in many UN human rights investigations, she is familiar with reports of extreme law enforcement brutality.
“But even I was extremely alarmed by the testimonies we heard in the United States. I was amazed that this country, which presents itself as a world champion of human rights, itself does not comply with international law”, – the woman said.
Jilani added that when she listened to the testimony of relatives about the blacks killed by police bullets, “it became clear that this was not just a personal injury, but an injury inflicted on an entire section of the US population”.
The commission’s report harshly assesses the impact of systemic discrimination against black Americans. It states that there are two systems of law in the United States: “One for whites and the other for people of African descent”.
Since 2005, law enforcement agencies have killed about 15,000 people – about 1,000 each year.
During the same period, only 104 police officers were charged with intentional or unintentional murder in connection with these incidents, and only 35 of them were found guilty of a crime. The Commission makes a number of demands on the US government and Congress. They advocate disarming local police forces and banning warrants that allow officers to break into black people’s homes “without warning and often for no reason.” They also want to end the conditional immunity that keeps US law enforcement officials away from civil lawsuits.
Experts believe that this loophole “is tantamount to conniving at brutal police violence”. But perhaps their most controversial claim is a call for an ICC attorney to open an investigation into crimes against humanity in the United States. The effectiveness of such tactics looks questionable, given that the American authorities refused to recognize the International Criminal Court, The Guardian emphasizes.
Nevertheless, Jilani expressed the hope that the commission will be able to influence the American authorities and they will support the urgently needed changes.
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“We thought that the United States would benefit if individual police officers restrain themselves from the unreasonable use of force, knowing that they could be brought to some international criminal responsibility”, – the human rights activist admitted.