An independent commission announced its findings on April 27 with the publication of a detailed report that alleges the existence of systemic racism inherent in police violence against Black Americans, which they argue constitutes crimes against humanity.
Although the commission has no enforcement authority, it made specific referrals to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government and the U.S. Congress, among others.
In the U.S., the referrals included a call for reparations, action to review and retool existing law enforcement policies, and passage of legislation to hold law enforcement officers accountable when Black individuals die as a result of their encounters with police.
At the international level, the commission called upon the global community to support ICC investigations into systemic racist police violence in the U.S. under Article 7 of the court’s Rome Statute, which covers crimes against humanity.
Though nations like Australia, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom are among the Rome Statute’s list of 123 signatory countries, the U.S. is not. America’s lack of ICC membership means the ICC has significantly less jurisdiction over the U.S. than it does over its member states.
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The killing of George Floyd in May, an event captured on video that went viral, sparked protests across the nation, which inspired calls from relatives of Black Americans who have been victims of similar police conduct to request reviews of the institutions and workplace cultures that allow this violence to fester.
Floyd’s death inspired debate at the U.N.’s HRC, which decided in June to create a report assessing how systemic racism and police conduct impacts Black individuals around the world.
But Floyd’s family members and others who pushed for the inquiry had wanted the HRC to focus on those issues specifically in the U.S. In response to the U.N.’s global focus, three organizations—the U.S.-based National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers—came together to launch an independent commission of their own, which was officially named the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States.
The commission’s resulting 188-page report was funded by the National Lawyers Guild Foundation.
The commissioners wrote that they believed launching an independent inquiry was necessary because of the way the U.N. backed away from focusing on systemic racism and police conduct in the U.S. The report said the U.N. did so in response to pressure from the U.S. while the country was led by former President Donald Trump.
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“After succumbing to enormous pressure by the U.S. and its allies, the HRC instead directed the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on systemic racism and violations of international human rights by police against Africans and people of African descent throughout the world,” the report said.
Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program, said the U.N.’s decision to pursue an international report “ultimately was watered down” from the initial request for an inquiry with a U.S. focus, which the ACLU supported.
The independent commission’s report “really came as a way to further document and press for international accountability that we asked for last summer,” Dakwar told Newsweek.
He said it is important the public understands that the commission’s report is entirely separate from the U.N. inquiry the ACLU joined in requesting, though Tuesday’s report reiterates those earlier calls for the U.N. to focus its attention on allegations of racist police conduct in the U.S.
For their report, the 12 commissioners from countries around the world collected testimony from family members and attorneys of 43 Black individuals in the U.S. who were killed during encounters with…