UN Rapporteur Agnès Callamard seeks to visit US in 2021 to conduct fact-finding mission on arbitrary killings by the police

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On June 17, The Guardian reported: “The killing of African Americans like George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks by police officers is a systemic problem in the US which requires profound changes that go way beyond prosecutions and police reforms, according to the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.”

Agnès Callamard says the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 “was an arbitrary killing in which the state and police officers must be held accountable.”

Callamard says of the death of Rayshard Brooks on June 12 in Atlanta: “It’s another arbitrary killing for which the state and police officer is responsible, which reveals yet again the systemic nature of the problem.”

The article notes: “Callamard has requested authorization to conduct a fact-finding mission to the US, which she hopes will take place in early 2021, that would focus on unpacking the root causes and systematic forces in the death penalty and police killings.”

“If authorized, it would be the first visit since 2008 and the UN team will seek testimonies from the families of victims like Floyd, Brooks and Breonna Taylor, and also visit towns and cities where meaningful reforms have been attempted.”

As explained by the United Nations: “The Special Rapporteur is mandated to conduct official visits to States. For that purpose, 114 States have issued standing invitations to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. For others, the Special Rapporteur requests the Government to extend an invitation for a country visit.”

While Canada has had a standing invitation to Special Rapporteurs since April 1999, the United States has not extended the same standing offer.

The Guardian further reports: “Black people are three times more likely to be killed than whites by police in the US, despite being 1.3 times less likely to be armed. In addition, only 1% of police killings between 2013 and 2019 resulted in officers being charged with a crime.”

Disproportionate killings of Black and Indigenous people by the police and impunity are also profound issues of concern Canada.

In 2018 an Ontario Human Rights Commission report found that a Black person in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, is nearly 20 times more likely to be shot dead by the police than a white person. It has also been noted that in 2014-15, 94.9 per cent of the police officers investigated by the Special Investigations Unit, which investigates the police after a shooting or serious incident, were cleared.

Additionally, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) fatally shot 61 people across Canada between 2007 and 2017. 36 per cent of those killed were Indigenous despite Indigenous people making up about 5 per cent of the population.

Callamard was appointed as a Special Rapporteur in August 2016 with an extensive background in human rights including teaching at the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada.

In February 2020, Callamard visited Kenya to learn more about the serious issue of extra-judicial killings by the police in that country.

While there, she highlighted: “As the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions I take the issue police killing extremely seriously. And I take the issue of impunity attached to police killing even more seriously.”

During that visit, Callamard met with representatives from the Peace Brigades International-Kenya Project and Peace Brigades International-United Kingdom.

The full article in The Guardian can be read at: Top UN official condemns ‘systemic’ US police killings and urges radical changes.

To read the Peace Brigades International-USA statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, please click here.

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