Burkina Faso’s ambassador, Dieudonné Désiré Sougouri, wrote a letter on behalf of 54 African countries asking the UN to organize an “urgent debate on the current racially-inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality against people of African descent and violence against peaceful demonstrations” according to Voice of America. This comes in the wake of George Floyd’s family, the families of multiple other victims of police killings, and over 600 NGOs requesting that the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC), investigate the issue of systemic racism and unaccountable policing in the United States.
The HRC operates as an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. It is scheduled to resume its 43rd session this week after it was interrupted in March due to COVID-19. The global ongoing protests over police brutality is sure to be top-of-mind for many countries.
This move allows the council to formally take up a request to begin scrutiny of potential violations perpetrated by the US due to a regulation that requires the backing of at least one country in order for the council to consider such a request. Additionally, specific proposals and actions can only be submitted within the confines of a special debate, as requested by the Africa Group, the UN regional group that all 54 African countries requesting this action are a party to.
Dieudonné Désiré Sougouri called for the debate to cover the widespread global issues of racism, but he did not fail to single out the US as well. According to Aljazeera, Sougouri continues in his letter saying, “The protests the world is witnessing are a rejection of the fundamental racial inequality and discrimination that characterise life in the United States for black people, and other people of colour…Sadly, the fates of many other victims attracted no attention, as they were not captured on social media for all to see.”
Any move the council makes will surely not be received well by the current administration. It was only two years ago that the United States officially withdrew from HRC citing a range of issues including accusing its members of having a “chronic bias against Israel”, a charge that has been leveled at the body for years by the US and Israel.
In response, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of HRC, did not mince words, saying “The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Human Rights Council is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy in which the US defends Israeli abuses from criticism above all else…By walking away, the US is turning its back not just on the UN, but on victims of human rights abuses around the world, including in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Myanmar.”
On the HRC website it lists the makeup of the current session of the Human Rights Council as follows:
Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, Somalia, Spain, Sudan, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.