Human Rights

UN rights chief demands 'dismantling' of systemic racism

United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet during a United NAtions Conference on Human Rights

UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, has called on nations to 'start dismantling racism'. Image: REUTERS

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Human Rights

  • UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has called on nations to 'start dismantling racism', following her report on racism around the world.
  • The report concluded that police brutality is entrenched in many nations and racism creates barriers to jobs, healthcare, housing, education and justice.
  • It found that at least 190 black people worldwide have been killed by law enforcement officers, in the last decade mostly in the US.
  • It calls for the creation of victim compensation and reparations programmes.
  • The report was commissioned following the murder of George Floyd.

Nations should "start dismantling racism" and prosecute law enforcement officials for unlawful killings, the UN human rights chief said on June 28, denouncing systemic racism against people of African descent in many parts of the world.

Michelle Bachelet, in a global report sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020, said police use of racial profiling and excessive force is entrenched in much of North America, Europe and Latin America.

Structural racism creates barriers to minorities' access to jobs, healthcare, housing, education and justice, she said.

"I am calling on all states to stop denying, and start dismantling, racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress," she said in a report.

The report called for the creation of victim compensation programmes and reparations programmes, including payments, at the national level, with input from affected communities.

Bachelet welcomed a "promising initiative" by U.S. President Joe Biden in signing an executive order in January to address racial inequity across the United States.

At least 190 people of African descent have died worldwide at the hands of law enforcement officials in the past decade - most of them in the United States, the report said.

"With the exception of the case of George Floyd, no one was held accountable," Mona Rishmawi, head of the rule of law branch who led the report, told a news conference.

It selected seven "emblematic cases", including that of Floyd. A judge sentenced former police officer Derek Chauvin on Friday to 22-1/2 years for his murder, video of which galvanised the national Black Lives Matter protest movement.

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Other victims include an Afro-Brazilian boy, 14, shot dead in an anti-drug police operation in Sao Paulo in May 2020 and a Frenchman of Malian origin, 24, who died in police custody in July 2016.

"One (Brazilian) mother in particular said to us 'you always talk about George Floyd. Every day we have a George Floyd here and nobody talks about it'," Rishmawi said. "We realised that we were only touching the tip of the iceberg."

Racism is most prevalent in countries linked to the former trade of an estimated 25-30 million Africans for enslavement or colonialism, resulting in large communities of people of African descent in countries such as Brazil, Britain, Canada, Colombia, France and the United States, the report said.

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"Systemic racism needs a systemic response," Bachelet said. "There is today a momentous opportunity to achieve a turning point for racial equality and justice."

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