United Nations Human Rights Council Holds Session on Racism in the United States

In the aftermath of demonstrations across the country and abroad, the international body wants to assist in the eradication of discrimination and oppression

“We beseech independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations, on the grounds that the United States Government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and the property of 22 million African-Americans. And on the grounds that our deteriorating plight is definitely becoming a threat to world peace…. In the interests of world peace and security, we beseech the heads of the independent African states to recommend an immediate investigation into our problem by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.” (Quote from the memorandum presented by Malcolm X on behalf of the Organization of Afro-American Unity to the Organization of African Unity second summit in Cairo, Egypt, July 17, 1964)

Nearly 56 years ago Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik Shabazz) visited the city of Cairo, Egypt for the second time within three months.

His mission was to take the plight of the African American people to the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor today’s African Union (AU), in order to solicit the assistance of the-then 33 independent nations on the continent in bringing the gross human rights violations committed by the U.S. government to the United Nations.

In 2020, the dramatic shift in mass activity and political debate surrounding the role of policing within the context of institutional racism and national oppression has come to the fore once again in the U.S. These developments prompted by demonstrations involving millions across the U.S. and internationally, along with the attacks on private property and symbols of slavery and colonialism, have drawn the attention of the modern day UN Human Rights agency which held a hearing on these issues during the third week of June. A series of extra-judicial killings of African Americans Ahmaud Abery, Breonna Taylor and later George Floyd sparked outrage which is still being manifested.

On June 12, 54 member-states within the continental AU demanded a debate in Geneva over the events which have transpired in the U.S. surrounding the police and vigilante attacks against African Americans. A memorandum was sent to the UNHRC President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger of Austria, signed by the government of the West African state of Burkina Faso requesting the convening of a session to discuss this pertinent issue.

In light of the unrest which spread throughout the U.S. and the world in the immediate wake of the brutal police execution of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police on May 25, Washington under the administration of President Donald Trump has failed miserably in adequately addressing the present situation. Trump in response to unrest in Washington, D.C. and other cities, evoked the Insurrection Act of 1807, threatening to deploy federal troops to areas where demonstrations are occurring to purportedly restore order.

The situation created such an embarrassing conundrum for the White House that existing and former Pentagon officials were compelled to make statements in an attempt to distance themselves from the president. Nonetheless, there have been more than 20 people killed by law-enforcement agents and National Guard over the previous month, while thousands have been beaten, gassed and detained by police.

Even the Voice of America (VOA), the broadcasting organ of the State Department, which has come under criticism by the Trump administration, reported on the international diplomatic maneuvering surrounding the racial turmoil in the U.S. saying: “In a letter written on behalf of the 54 countries of the African Group, of which he is coordinator for human rights questions, the ambassador of Burkina Faso to the United Nations in Geneva, Dieudonné Désiré Sougouri, asked the body to the U.N. to organize an ‘urgent debate on the current racially-inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality against people of African descent and violence against peaceful demonstrations. The tragic events of May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, USA, which resulted in the death of George Floyd, sparked worldwide protests over the injustice and brutality faced by people of African descent daily in many regions of the world,’ wrote the ambassador. ‘The death of George Floyd is unfortunately not an isolated incident,’ he wrote, adding that he was speaking on behalf of the representatives and ambassadors of the African Group.” (https://www.voanews.com/usa/race-america/african-countries-call-debate-racism-un-human-rights-council)

The Outcome of the UN Human Rights Debate

As a result of the UN Human Rights Council discussions on June 17-18 in Geneva, the body decided to conduct further investigations on the question of racism and brutality in the U.S. Such a decision portends much for the effectiveness of international solidarity related to the African American struggle….

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