February 26, 2021
A Black Lives Matter protester and NYPD officers scuffle on the Brooklyn Bridge during a demonstration, in New York, July 15, 2020. PHOTO: AP
By VOA News
Twenty-three United Nations human rights experts released a joint statement Friday calling on the United States to adopt reforms on police violence and 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 statement.
Signatories 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, and others.
“In this time of political change, the United States must initiate far-reaching reforms to address police brutality and systemic racism,” they said.
The U.N. statement also praised a January report from the Office of the City Controller in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on its response to protests over the May 2020 death of unarmed African American man George Floyd in Minneapolis policy custody.
The Philadelphia probe found the city failed to sufficiently plan for the protests and that excessive force was used. It also found inconsistencies in how officers policed massive crowds protesting police brutality and other crowds gathered to show support for the police.
“Police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and used pepper spray from close range against protesters, residents, and bystanders indiscriminately,” the U.N. report states. “Tear gas canisters even landed in home yards hurting children.”
The report found that many violations stemmed from the failure of leadership at the highest levels in key city departments and agencies.
“We agree forcefully with the necessity for greater accountability,” said the U.N. statement. “The authorities at all levels must ensure that there is no impunity for any excessive use of force by law enforcement officials.”
The U.N. experts urged U.S. officials to address the issue of increased “militarization” of policing.
“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.