Americas

UN experts urge reforms in US to end police violence

UN special rapporteurs say they repeatedly raise concerns on use of excessive, lethal force in US police interventions

Peter Kenny   | 26.02.2021
UN experts urge reforms in US to end police violence

GENEVA

A group of UN human rights experts on Friday called on the US to adopt wide-ranging reforms to end police violence and vigorously address systemic racism and racial discrimination.

“We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the excessive force used by American police in the context of peaceful demonstrations and the use of lethal force against individuals who did not present a threat to life at the time of the police intervention,” said the experts in a statement.

The experts include Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial and arbitrary executions; Irene Khan, special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Marcos Orellana, special rapporteur on toxics and human rights; Nils Melzer, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel punishment as well as other experts.

“In this time of political change, the United States must initiate far-reaching reforms to address police brutality and systemic racism,” they said.

In June, the UN Human Rights Council debated the killing of George Floyd, an African-American, police killings of Black people, and violence against peaceful protesters in the US.

The UN experts also welcomed the recent Philadelphia Office of the City Controller report over the response to the protests following Floyd’s killing.

The Philadelphia investigation found that the city failed to sufficiently plan for the protests and that excessive force was used.

It also found that inconsistent approaches were used against those protesting against police brutality versus those supporting the police.

“In Philadelphia, as in other parts of the country where Black Lives Matter protests took place, law enforcement interventions were not limited to areas where lootings and vandalism had allegedly occurred,” the experts said.

“Police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and used pepper spray from close range against protesters, residents, and bystanders indiscriminately. Tear gas canisters even landed in home yards hurting children.”

The Philadelphia report found that many of the violations resulted from a failure of leadership at the highest levels of key City departments and agencies.

“We agree forcefully with the necessity for greater accountability. The authorities at all levels must ensure that there is no impunity for any excessive use of force by law enforcement officials,” the UN experts said.

They urged the authorities to address the increased “militarization” of policing.

“The use of military equipment by law enforcement agencies cannot be justified.

“Studies have shown that the use of military gear and armored vehicles for the purposes of law enforcement has not reduced crime or increased officers’ safety,” they said.

“On the contrary, when such equipment is used, officers are more likely to display violent behavior,” the statement added.

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