US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



UN Human Right Council Passes Watered Down Resolution on Juneteenth

Jun 19, 2020

This week we asked for your support to implore UN Member States to pass an important Resolution that would have established an independent international commission of inquiry related to the systemic racism, human rights violations and other abuses against People of African Descent in the United States and around the world. The Resolution called for the inquiry to examine federal, state and local government responses to the recent protests that were triggered by the killing of George Floyd. 

Early this morning, the Human Rights Council failed to pass the robust Resolution we were calling for. Instead, the Resolution was watered down and a weaker version was passed which no longer mandates the establishment of an international independent commission of inquiry. The current Resolution calls for a report from the High Commissioner which will be presented to the Human Rights Council, followed by an interactive dialogue. We believe this failure to mandate a commission of inquiry reflects the cowardice of Australia and Western European countries including Germany, to speak truth to power. We believe these states chose to prioritize diplomacy over human rights, and in doing so they are maintaining and perpetuating entrenched systems of white supremacy.

Still, we recognize the significant gains made during this period of advocacy and the significance of this Resolution being passed on Juneteenth, an important day for descendants of slavery in the United States. We extend our appreciation for the African Group, particularly fierce advocates South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia who submitted their request for an Urgent Debate to the Human Rights Council. We are grateful for the African Group and other UN Member States who stood up to US power and called out the US government for failing to protect Black people from systemic racism and police violence. The African Group advocated wholeheartedly despite political bullying from the US State Department. 

We are especially grateful to the family members of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and Philando Castile, who endorsed our letter. Thank you to Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, who delivered a moving statement via video during the Urgent Debate. His statement marks the first time time in history that a family member of a victim opened a debate at the Council. We are humbled to have been part of the process that uplifted Philonise Floyd and his brother's story. Watch his historic video statement here.

Thank you for standing with us over the last two weeks as we have worked with our national partners at the ACLU, the international advocacy group ISHR, former CERD member Professor Gay McDougall, our members, and family members of slain Black people in the US. Together we have made never-before-seen strides including petitioning the Human Rights Council with the support of 690 global civil society organizations to address systemic racism in the US, and the Human Rights Council responding by holding an Urgent Debate on this topic for the first time ever. We are encouraged that the Resolution that passed today is the first Resolution the Human Rights Council has ever adopted that includes a victim's name.

Although we did not get the Resolution we were working towards, our advocacy does not stop here. We remain hopeful that the High Commissioner's pending report on systemic racism, police brutality, and violence against peaceful protestors will be a helpful tool to hold the US accountable. We will be in touch soon regarding a debrief meeting for USHRN members to discuss where we go from here to hold the US accountable for it's human rights abuses against people of African descent.

In solidarity,

US Human Rights Network