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Statement on the Human Rights Council Urgent Debate Resolution

This statement is issued by independent experts* of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council:

GENEVA (19 June 2020) On June 19, people of African descent in the United State celebrate the Juneteenth holiday, commemorating the day that formerly enslaved Africans finally became aware of their legal emancipation, a full 2 ½ years after emancipation was mandated by law. Even then, many enslavers continued to hide news of emancipation, in order to command an additional harvest season without paying for Black labor.  The actions of people in power in the face of injustice matter.  Black lives matter.

In recognition of this, and the Urgent Debate on systemic racism in law enforcement taking place in the Human Rights Council this week, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance express serious concern that extreme pressure by certain powerful and influential countries—including countries that publicly voiced support for the need to take action in the face of systemic racism—has operated to dilute the strength of the planned consensus resolution of the Urgent Debate.

The independent experts call on the Human Rights Council to adopt, through a vote if necessary, a strong, substantive resolution, as was originally drafted and that is consistent with the clear and unequivocal demands of the families of the victims, civil society, and the independent experts of the Special Procedures rather than a diluted consensus resolution that would amount to lip service in the face of the urgency of this moment. This must include a mandate to establish the facts and circumstances relating to systemic racism, alleged violations of international human rights law, and abuses against Africans and People of African Descent.  We call on any countries that are relying on their geopolitical dominance to prevent decisive action, to demonstrate a genuine commitment to undoing systemic racism by halting their undue pressure on delegations seeking to push for change.

 *The experts:

Ahmed Reid (Chair), Dominique Day, Sabelo Gumedze, Michal  Balcerzak, and Ricardo A. Sunga III, Working Group of experts on people of African descent

E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

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.

For more information and inquires please contact Christina Saunders: csaunders@ohchr.org