UN rights chief urges immediate, transformative action to uproot racism

UN rights chief urges immediate, transformative action to uproot racism

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 (APP): The United Nations human rights chief has urged countries around the world to take action to root out systemic racism against people of African descent on Monday, as she released a report calling for measures to dismantle discrimination and for sweeping changes to policing, as well as reparations.

“The status quo is untenable,” Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement released in Geneva on Monday.

“Systemic racism needs a systemic response. There is today a momentous opportunity to achieve a turning point for racial equality and justice.”

The 20-page report and an accompanying 95-page conference paper draw on evidence from 60 countries.

In a call to all States “to stop denying, and start dismantling, racism”, the UN rights chief appealed to them “to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress”.

The High Commissioner’s report collected information on more than 190 cases where people had died in police custody around the world.

It uncovered many similarities and patterns, such as the hurdles families encountered in trying to access justice, according to Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Accountability is crucial and families do have some form of satisfaction in seeing someone in prison for a crime that is as violent as the murder of George Floyd, which we saw on video tape, but of course there are so many cases where there isn’t a video tape and there are even cases where there are video tapes but justice is not being dealt in those cases”, she said.

Across numerous countries, notably in North and South America and in Europe, people of African descent disproportionately live in poverty and face serious barriers in accessing education, healthcare, employment, housing and clean water, as well as to political participation and other fundamental human rights, the report maintained.

These obstacles to fulfilling basic human rights contributed to a tradition of discrimination linked directly to colonialism and slave trading which resulted in the “dehumanization” of people of African descent, according to the report.

“We realized that a main part of the problem is that many people believe the misconceptions that the abolition of slavery, the end of the transatlantic trade and colonialism have removed the racially discriminatory structures built by those practices; [but] we found that this is not true,” said UN Human Rights Office’s Mona Rishmawi, Chief, Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination Branch.

As a result, countries have not paid adequate attention to the negative impact of policies on minority populations and the “conscious