Human Rights Council President Appoints Members of Racial Justice Body
16 December 2021
The President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan of Fiji, announced today the appointment of Justice Yvonne Mokgoro of South Africa, Tracie L. Keesee of the United States and Juan Mendez of Argentina to serve as members of a recently established body tasked with advancing racial justice and equality in law enforcement in all parts of the world. Justice Mokgoro will serve as chairperson of the new body.
In its resolution adopted on 13 July 2021, the Human Rights Council decided to establish an international independent expert mechanism, comprised of three experts with law enforcement and human rights expertise, to be appointed by the Council President, to examine systemic racism and the excessive use of force, and other violations of international human rights law, against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement officials worldwide.
The three-member body is mandated to examine the “root causes of systemic racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, …racial profiling and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials against Africans and people of African descent”. The experts will also explore how “domestic law, policy and practices may lead to disproportionate and widespread interaction between law enforcement officers and Africans and people of African descent”.
The experts, who have been given a three-year mandate, will also investigate governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests, and make recommendations on the concrete steps needed “to ensure access to justice, accountability and redress for excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement against Africans and people of African descent”.
Through its unanimous resolution, Human Rights Council members requested the newly established expert body to report to the 51st session of the Council, scheduled to take place in September/October 2022, to be followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and that the report be transmitted to the UN General Assembly.
Biographies of Experts
Yvonne Mokgoro (South Africa) is a former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from its inception in 1994 until the end of her 15-year term in 2009. She also served simultaneously on the South African Law Reform Commission (1995-2011 – as its Chairperson from 2000-2011) and President of Africa Legal Aid (AFLA) (1995-2005). Justice Mokgoro is the current Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and after her term on the South Africa Constitutional Court, she served as Acting Justice at the Lesotho Appeals Court and the Namibia Supreme Court. In November 2020, she completed her 4-year non-renewable term as Chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council. She has held a number of academic positions, including at the University of Bophuthatswana, University of the Western Cape and University of Pretoria and has taught in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands.
Tracie L. Keesee (United States of America) served for 25 years in the Denver Police Department (retired Jan 2015). She subsequently served as New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Deputy Commissioner of Training (Feb 2016-Jan 2018) and as NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion (Jan 2018-Mar 2019). She served as Project Director of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice - a Department of Justice project designed to improve relationships and increase trust between minority communities and the criminal justice system. (Jan 2015-Feb 2016). She was also Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado Denver, teaching courses on race, crime and justice. She is currently Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Justice Initiatives of the Center For Policing Equity, which promotes police transparency and accountability. Additionally, she works closely with communities to ensure their voice and representation are centered in the co-production of public safety.
Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) is professor of human rights law in residence at the American University-Washington College of Law and member of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. He was the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (2010-2016); former Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide (2004-2007) and concurrently President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (2004-2009), as well as former Commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2000-2003) and its President in 2002. Professor Méndez was elected commissioner to the International Commission of Jurists in January 2017 and has been a Special Advisor on Crime Prevention to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2009-2011). He also worked with Human Rights Watch for 15 years and was the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (1996-1999).