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USA / People of African descent: UN expert group condemns recent killings

GENEVA (8 July 2016) – Human rights expert Ricardo A. Sunga III, who currently Chairs the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, issued the following statement after this week’s deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana at the hands of the police, and Thursday’s killing of five police officers in downtown Dallas.

“The Working Group is outraged and strongly condemns the new police killings of two African- American men. These killings which were captured on video cannot be ignored. We call for prompt independent investigations to ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.

We also condemn the attacks on police officers in Dallas and call for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

Excessive use of force by the police against African Americans in the United States is a regular occurrence. African Americans are reportedly shot at more than twice the rate of white people.

The Working Group is monitoring the situation and has repeatedly expressed its concern to the United States Government about police killings of African Americans and called for justice. The Working Group is convinced that the root of the problem lies in the lack of accountability for perpetrators of such killings despite the evidence.

The killings also demonstrate a high level of structural and institutional racism. The United States is far from recognizing the same rights for all its citizens. Existing measures to address racist crimes motivated by prejudice are insufficient and have failed to stop the killings.

It is time, now, for the US Government to strongly assert that Black lives matter and prevent any further killings as a matter of national priority.”

NOTE TO EDITORS:

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent carried out an official visit to the US in January 2016. In its preliminary observations* to the US Government, the panel of experts noted with concern “the alarming levels of police brutality and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials committed with impunity,” and made a number of specific recommendations, among them:  

“Improving reporting of violations involving the excessive use of force and extra-judicial killings by the police, and ensure that reported cases of excessive use of force are independently investigated; that alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions; that investigations are re-opened when new evidence becomes available; and that victims or their families are provided with remedy.”

The Working group will present a comprehensive report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2016.

(*) Read the Working Group’s preliminary recommendations to the US Government:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17000&LangID=E

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts:  Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines) current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Mireille Fanon Mendes-France (France), Mr. Ahmed Reid (Jamaica); Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa); and Mr. Michal Balcerzak (Poland). Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/WGEPADIndex.aspx

The Working Group is 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. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/WGEPADIndex.aspx

The International Decade of People of African Descent: http://www.un.org/en/events/africandescentdecade/

UN Human Rights, country page – United States:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Ms. Christina Saunders (+41 22 928 9197 / csaunders@ohchr.org), Mr. Niraj Dawadi (+41 22 928 9151 / ndawadi@ohchr.org) or write to africandescent@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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