The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold an “urgent” debate on systemic racism and police brutality, the organization said Monday. The debate among the U.N.’s top human rights body is the result of a request from Burkina Faso, on behalf of 54 African countries.
The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva said it will examine the “current racially-inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and the violence against peaceful protests” this Wednesday. The council’s president, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, said the issue doesn’t just pertain to the U.S., after holding a meeting for the first time since the coronavirus struck in March.
“As you have seen with demonstrations all over the world, including here in Geneva, so this is a topic that is not about just one country, it goes well beyond that,” she said. “When I said it’s not against the United States, I mean there are complaints about a lot of racism in many countries of this world, of course in Europe, but not only; you find it all over the world.”
In a letter to Tichy-Fisslberger obtained by CBS News, Burkina Faso’s representative to the U.N. Dieudonné W. Désiré Sougouri called for the debate Friday in wake of the protests that have spread throughout the world since the death of George Floyd.
“The tragic events of 25 May in Minneapolis in the U.S. which led to the death of George Floyd led to protests throughout the world against injustice and police brutality that persons of African descent face on a daily basis in many regions of the world,” Sougouri said. “The death of George Floyd is unfortunately not an isolated incident.”
The group’s meeting came after a call from more than 600 rights groups to investigate alleged police violence after the killing of Floyd, according to the U.N. The lawyer representing Floyd’s family, Ben Crump, tweeted that his legal team had submitted an urgent appeal to the U.N. to intervene, which would include “encouraging the U.S. government to press federal criminal charges against involved officers and making recommendations for systemic police reform.”
Several high profile U.N. officials, including Secretary-General António Guterres, have denounced racism, but the calls are now more specific to the U.S. reaction to the death of George Floyd and the protests surrounding police practices, CBS News’ Pamela Falk reported.
More than 20 senior U.N. officials who are African or of African descent also published a statement titled, “On the Black Lives Matter Protests and other Mass Demonstrations against Systemic Racism and Police Brutality.” The statement called on the U.N. to “step up and act decisively to help end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups.” The signatories include heads of U.N. agencies such as Tedros Ghebreyesus, the leader of the World Health Organization.
The U.S. is not part of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The U.S. exited two years ago after then-Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the 47-member body “continues politicizing and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks.”
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