The decision by a Grand Jury in Missouri to absolve a police officer for the fatal shooting of an African-American teenager has spotlighted broader concerns about institutionalized discrimination across the United States, the top United Nations human rights official said today.
“I am deeply concerned at the disproportionate number of young African Americans who die in encounters with police officers, as well as the disproportionate number of African Americans in US prisons and the disproportionate number of African Americans on Death Row,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in a statement issued by his office in Geneva this morning.
“It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” Mr. Zeid continued. “I urge the US authorities to conduct in-depth examinations into how race-related issues are affecting law enforcement and the administration of justice, both at the federal and state levels.”
Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer in the US town of Ferguson, in Missouri on 9 August, sparking protests around the country and enflaming the debate surrounding the treatment of African-American men by US law enforcement.
Amid reports that many of the protests in and around Ferguson had turned violent, UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon called for calm and restraint, appealing to all those demonstrating against the Grand Jury’s verdict “to make their voices heard peacefully and to refrain from violence.” Speaking through his spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged local authorities “to protect the rights of peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression.
“He echoes the appeal made by Michael Brown’s parents to turn this difficult time into ‘positive change,’” the spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said, adding that Mr. Ban’s thoughts were “first and foremost” with Michael Brown’s family and with the entire Ferguson community.
The High Commissioner explained that without knowing the specific details of the evidence laid before the state of Missouri Grand Jury, he remained unable to comment on whether or not the verdict itself conformed to international law. However, he said, continuing reports of deadly encounters between police officers and members of the African-American community had repeatedly prompted concerns among respected national bodies and by UN bodies monitoring the implementation of international human rights treaties.
Mr. Zeid noted that just two weeks ago, Mr. Brown’s parents had addressed the UN Committee against Torture, which is currently reviewing the US application of its obligations under the relevant Convention.
Source: The UN