During the visit, the Mechanism visited Washington DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City saying in a press release, that it had been pleased to learn about various promising initiatives that authorities have developed to combat racial discrimination affecting people of African descent.
Urging accountability and support
Members of the UN Human Rights Council-appointed delegation said they “felt an urgency, and a moral responsibility, to echo the harrowing pain of victims” and their resounding calls for accountability and support
“We saw some promising initiatives centering the voices of victims and survivors, as well as law enforcement initiatives that could be replicated throughout the United States.
‘Reparation initiatives’ welcome
“We welcome the reparatory measures taken so far, including executive orders signed in 2021 and 2022, as well as individual reparation initiatives by way of civilian settlement for damages,” said Tracie Keesee, an expert member of the Mechanism.
“But we strongly believe that more robust action, including on part of federal authorities, is needed to result in strong accountability measures for past and future violations.”
“This includes boosting oversight mechanisms with compelling power”, providing sufficient resources and “robust and holistic” reparation, together with support and rehabilitation to victims, including “access to justice and health, including mental health services.”
The legacy of structural racism
Slavery has left a deep and long-lasting entrenched legacy on the country, which can be perceived through generational trauma, the independent experts noted.
Racial discrimination permeates all contacts with law enforcement, from the first contact – often during early school years – by means of racial profiling, arrest, detention, sentencing and disenfranchisement in some US states, the said.
“In each of those aspects, available data points to a clear disproportional impact upon people of African descent.”
Transition to human rights-centred response
The experts said it should be an “imperative priority” to address and unpack the issue of poverty as it impacts people of African descent, moving from a criminal justice response to a human rights-centred response to poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness.
“While acknowledging that most of these efforts would need to take place at the state and local levels, we call upon Federal Government and Congress to continue demonstrating leadership, notably by allocating federal funding to state-level policy initiatives, adopting national standards on the use of force, and undertaking federal criminal investigations into cases of excessive use of force by law enforcement,” said Juan Méndez, another of the Mechanism’s experts.
The Mechanism has shared its preliminary findings with the White House and will draft a full report to be published in the coming months and presented to the Human Rights Council at its next full session.
Independent human rights experts are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic issues or country situations. They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.