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Oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on A/HRC/RES/43/1: Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers

45th session of the Human Rights Council

1 October 2020

Madam President,
Excellencies,

Thank you for this opportunity to update the Council on our work to implement resolution 43/1, of 17 June, 2020.

For too long, victims of systemic racism and racial discrimination and their families have endured prolonged suffering. Racism and racial discrimination have a devastating impact on victims, impinge upon rule of law and democratic space, and are unacceptable violations of human rights. It is our urgent and collective duty to address these issues – immediately and everywhere.

As I indicated in my opening statement to this Council two weeks ago, we continue to receive reports of police brutality and racism against people of African descent, underscoring the gravity of the crisis. The extent to which these human rights violations go unpunished is a source of concern. Often it appears that investigations are opened only when video footage, shared on social media, creates a wave of public outrage, placing heavy pressure on the authorities to act. The absence of accountability and redress for racially motivated crimes committed by members of security forces against people of African descent is unacceptable.

Law enforcement officials carry out some of the most necessary and challenging work in our societies. They have a duty to perform their functions in line with human rights law, while respecting equality and dignity. In every State where there is rule of law, there must also be oversight – and an absolute commitment to ending impunity.

Madam President,

Following the adoption of resolution 43/1, my Office immediately moved on its implementation, establishing a dedicated team to work towards its effective implementation, in accordance with our established methodology.

Racism affects all countries, as the resolution recognises, and an initial examination of the prevalence, patterns and trends of the issues raised in the resolution will guide the scope of our planned reporting.  We will seek out the views of all Member States and other key stakeholders. I look forward to your cooperation and the engagement by States in these processes, including your sharing of good practices.

Central to this work will be the voices of victims of African descent and their families and communities. It is critical for us to hear and learn from their experiences, as we formulate recommendations that seek to bring about genuine and transformative change.

I am also most grateful to the hundreds of civil society organisations that have expressed their support for this work. I appreciate their trust in our Office; we will count on their help. 

My Office will also engage with the Council's Special Procedures mandate holders. In September, I met with the Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent for an initial discussion, and I am grateful for their offers to contribute their expertise towards the implementation of the resolution.

Madam President,

This Council and its Member States have much to contribute to combatting racism and racial discrimination.  Mindful of the profound importance of this mandate, my Office began implementing this resolution even before we received financial resources for it. Our intention, however, is to submit a Statement of programme budget implications that will help us go forward. I count on the Council’s support in this respect.

More broadly, the engagement of the Council and its Member States will be essential to focus efforts on recommendations and actions that deliver results. We cannot let the urgency felt in this Council last June subside. The Human Rights Council can contribute to making this moment a critical turning point in the respect and protection of the human rights of people of African descent.     

I look forward to updating you in greater detail at the Council's next session, in March.

Thank you, Madam President.