Statement on the Protests against Systemic Racism in the United States
June 5, 2020
This statement is issued by independent experts* of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Original statement can be viewed here, the text is copied below.
Image: open source by Andrew Robinson.
The recent killing of George Floyd has shocked many in the world, but it is the lived reality of black people across the United States. The uprising nationally is a protest against systemic racism that produces state-sponsored racial violence, and licenses impunity for this violence. The uprising also reflects public frustration and protest against the many other glaring manifestations of systemic racism that have been impossible to ignore in the past months, including the racially disparate death rate and socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disparate and discriminatory enforcement of pandemic-related restrictions. This systemic racism is gendered. The protests the world is witnessing, are a rejection of the fundamental racial inequality and discrimination that characterize life in the United States for black people, and other people of color.
The response of the President of the United States to the protests at different junctures has included threating more state violence using language directly associated with racial segregationists from the nation’s past, who worked hard to deny black people fundamental human rights. We are deeply concerned that the nation is on the brink of a militarized response that reenacts the injustices that have driven people to the streets to protest.
Expressions of solidarity—nationally and internationally—are important but they are not enough. Many in the United States and abroad are finally acknowledging that the problem is not a few bad apples, but instead the problem is the very way that economic, political and social life are structured in a country that prides itself in liberal democracy, and with the largest economy in the world. The true demonstration of whether Black lives do indeed matter remains to be seen in the steps that public authorities and private citizens take in response to the concrete demands that protestors are making. One example is nationwide calls to rollback staggering police and military budgets, and for reinvestment of those funds in healthcare, education, housing, pollution prevention and other social structures, especially in communities of color that have been impoverished and terrorized by discriminatory state intervention.
Reparative intervention for historical and contemporary racial injustice is urgent, and required by international human rights law. This is a time for action and not just talk, especially from those who need not fear for their lives or their livelihoods because of their race or ethnicity. Globally, people of African descent and others have had to live the truths of systemic racism, and the associated pain, often without meaningful recourse as they navigate their daily lives. International leaders that have spoken out in solidarity with protestors, and with black people in the United States should also take this opportunity to address structural forms of racial and ethnic injustice in their own nations, and within the international system itself.
* UN experts:
- Tendayi Achiume,Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
- Ikponwosa Ero,Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism
- Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Sètondji Roland Adjovi, and Seong-Phil Hong, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
- Githu Muigai (Chair), Anita Ramasastry (Vice-chair), Surya Deva, Elżbieta Karska, and Dante Pesce,Working Group on Business and Human Rights
- Rhona Smith,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia
- Nourredine Amir (Chair), Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
- Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin,Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
- Livingstone Sewanyana,Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order
- Tomás Ojea Quintana,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
- Catalina Devandas-Aguilar,Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities
- Meskerem Geset Techane, Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Alda Facio, Ivana Radačić, and Melissa Upreti(Vice Chair),Working Group on discrimination against women and girls
- Kombou Boly Barry,Special Rapporteur on the right to education
- David R. Boyd,Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
- Agnès Callamard,Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
- Michael Fakhri,Special Rapporteur on the right to food
- Yuefen LI,Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights
- Clément Nyaletsossi Voule,Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
- David Kaye,Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression
- Ahmed Shaheed,Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
- Dainius Pūras,Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health
- Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context
- Alice Cruz,Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members
- Alioune Tine,Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali
- Chris Kwaja (Chair), Jelena Aparac, Lilian Bobea, Sorcha MacLeod, and Saeed Mokbil, Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination
- Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
- Fernand de Varennes,Special Rapporteur on minority issues
- Thomas Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
- Claudia Mahler,Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons
- Michael Lynk,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967
- Olivier De Schutter,Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
- Ahmed Reid (Chair), Michal Balcerzak, Dominique Day, Sabelo Gumedze, and Ricardo A. Sunga III, Working Group of experts on people of African descent
- Joe Cannataci,Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy
- Saad Alfarargi,Special Rapporteur on the right to development
- Mama Fatima Singhateh,Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children
- Victor Madrigal-Borloz,Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
- Obiora C. Okafor,Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity
- Isha Dyfan,Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia
- Aristide Nononsi,Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan
- Nils Melzer,Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- Baskut Tuncak,Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes
- Maria Grazia Giammarinaro,Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children
- Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence
- Alena Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights
- Dubravka Šimonovic,Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
- Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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