ACLU Responds to United Nations Reports on Policing and Racial Justice

October 4, 2023 5:00 pm

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GENEVA — Two United Nations reports detailing the ways in which systemic racism infects every facet of our criminal legal system in the United States will be presented before the United Nations Human Rights Council tomorrow. The reports are based on extensive research and global consultations, as well as an official visit to the United States in April and May.

The reports were both prepared by the United Nations’ Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement, which was established in 2021 following calls from the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil society groups for international condemnation of anti-Black racism and discrimination in law enforcement. The independent experts were given a mandate to focus on reimagining policing worldwide, countering systemic racism, and reforming the criminal legal system. The first report follows an extensive review of policing worldwide, and includes key recommendations for re-envisioning public safety and the role of law enforcement, and the second report follows a visit to the United States by U.N. experts in April and May.

The report on the visit to the United States covers a wide variety of topics, such as lack of accountability for deadly use of force and racial profiling, and offers concrete policy measures, including taking police out of traffic enforcement, out of schools, out of responding to mental health crises and more. The report also covers other issues that disproportionately affect Black people in the United States, including felony voter disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, extreme sentencing and solitary confinement, the death penalty, forced prison labor, and the use of biased tools for policing like facial recognition.

The ACLU filed submissions and provided testimony to the independent expert body, and our submissions are heavily cited throughout the reports.

Yasmin Cader, director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, issued the following statement in regards to the reports:

“These reports from the United Nations come at a critical time in history as we commit to reimagine systems of public safety. The recommendations further our vision for true transformative change, making it abundantly clear that we must make meaningful investments in our communities, while at the same time condemning the rampant structural inequality and systemic oppression of Black people that plagues our policing and criminal legal system.”

The ACLU and the UN Anti-Racism Coalition (UNARC) which was founded following the murder of George Floyd co-hosted a virtual side event on October 5, 2023. This panel continues the discussion on the reports, including speakers from civil society groups and human rights experts. Panelists include:

  • Kerry Mclean, Human Rights Lawyer (moderator)
  • Dr. Tracie L. Keesee, Expert Member of EMLER
  • Professor Juan E. Méndez, Expert Member of EMLER
  • Salimah Hankins, Director of the UN Antiracism Coalition
  • Yasmin Cader, Deputy Legal Director, ACLU
  • Jimmy Hill, whose son Jimmy Atchison was murdered by Atlanta police

Watch the recorded event here.

ACLU submission to EMLER on reimagining policing:

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