By the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 in Minnesota, United States of America, the mass protests that ensued in many countries and the momentous verdict against one responsible law enforcement official1 represent a seminal point in the fight against racism.
The worldwide mobilization of people calling for racial justice has forced a long- delayed reckoning with racism and shifted debates towards a focus on the systemic nature of racism and the institutions that perpetrate it. Prompted by this groundswell, on 17 June 2020 the Human Rights Council held an urgent debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests. On 19 June 2020, the Council adopted resolution 43/1 by consensus, in which it requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies, especially those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and people of African descent, to contribute to accountability and redress for victims; to examine government responses to anti-racism peaceful protests, including the alleged use of excessive force against protesters, bystanders and journalists; and to present a comprehensive report to the Council at its forty-seventh session.
In the present report – to be read in conjunction with an accompanying conference room paper – the High Commissioner examines the compounding inequalities that Africans and people of African descent face in all areas of life as a result of their marginalization and the lack of equal access to opportunities, resources and power. She highlights how systemic racism manifests itself in the area of law enforcement, focusing on incidents that result in death as its most visible and irreversible outcome, and on the consistent lack of accountability and redress for victims. The High Commissioner emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the voices of people of African descent and all those standing up against racism are heard. She considers the long-overdue need to confront the legacies of enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and colonialism and to seek reparatory justice. Recognizing the imperative for action, in the present report she presents an agenda towards transformative change for racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent globally (see annex).