Washington DC, July 15, 2021 – The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) celebrates the adoption, by consensus, of Resolution A/HRC/47/L.8 Rev.1, which aims to promote and protect African and Afro-descendants against excessive use of public force. This resolution was voted on at the 47th General Assembly of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (HRC47), in which Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her report on the subject, calling on member states to dismantle systemic racism and end police violence. This ruling is a historic step towards reforming systemic police brutality against the black population.
The Resolution establishes an international mechanism of independent experts to promote transformative changes to justice and racial equality. This mechanism should be composed of three experts with experience in law enforcement and human rights, who will be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, under the guidance of the High Commissioner. To this end, the mechanism must work closely with experts from international bodies and treaties.
Additionally, this same mechanism will be responsible for investigating the responses of governments to peaceful protests against racism and all international human rights violations, as well as contribute to accountability and reparation of victims. The mechanism will be presented to the UN Council annually, together with the High Commissioner, who will also present an annual report, to be declared at its 51st session in June 2022.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the adopted Resolution recognizes the legacy of slavery, colonialism, and the transatlantic slave trade of African peoples. This recognition dialogues with the 21-year-old Durban Conference, whose Durban Declaration and program of action cite the link between the past, present and future, recognizing that Afro-descendants continue to be victims of the consequences of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism. Thus, both documents call for the former colonial powers to assume the consequences of colonization and its impacts on today’s black population around the world.
In presenting her report, Bachelet reiterated that, “no state has taken full responsibility for the past or the current impact of systemic racism,” thus confirming the urgent need for measures to ensure an end to impunity and discriminatory policies. Thus, the promotion of racial justice and equality pervades the adoption of reparatory policies against systemic racism in Western nations affected by colonialism
In view of this resolution, we also praise the importance of human rights organizations and defenders who are part of the anti-racist struggle. Through their advocacy work, the committee against racial discrimination, the rapporteur on racism and the working group on Afro-descendants have made numerous recommendations to the UN system for the protection of human rights.
Towards a Global Transformative Agenda
The implications of Resolution A/HRC/47/L.8/Rev.1 of the Human Rights Council adopted by the UN are the results of a historical demand of the black population around the world. Michelle Bachelet’s mandate research under Resolution 43/1, provides concrete recommendations on the measures needed to ensure access to justice, accountability, reparation for excessive use of force, and other human rights violations against the black population. The case of George Floyd in the US brought to light racial debate versus police violence on a global level. Therefore, investigating the violent responses of governments towards peaceful protests against racism and supporting the victims of human rights violations was made as an urgent response from international mechanisms.
That said, the attack on democracy by the States is carried out as an attempt to weaken both the anti-racist struggle and the guarantee to fundamental rights. Therefore, among the pillars of reparations to African and Afro-descendant peoples is the establishment of independent monitoring mechanisms and standardized methods to report and review the use of force. Furthermore, data should be published and broken-down by race or ethnic origin of the victims, highlighting the racial profile, the cause of deaths and serious injuries that are related to the maintenance of order, and subsequent prosecutions and convictions.
Statement on Police and Political Violence in Brazil
On the occasion of the UN’s HRC47, Race and Equality with Brazilian and international human rights organizations, denounced the ongoing police and political violence in Brazil as a result of systemic racism. The neglect of the Brazilian government in the face of constant allegations of human rights violations, both in the political sphere and in the public and private spheres, highlights how the structure that supports the maintenance of racist practices is ingrained in its institutions, especially in those in which the state seeks to impose order through violence—the police institution.
Thus, Race and Equality in partnership with the Marielle Franco Institute (IMF), IMADR and Minority Rights,  denounced police violence against the black population in Brazil. The statement, delivered by Anielle Franco, Executive Director of the IMF, urges the United Nations to establish an independent and impartial mechanism within the police forces that will help ensure accountability and respect for human rights standards and ensure that all cases of disproportionate use of force are investigated. In addition, the statement highlighted the recent cases of the Chacina do Jacarezinho, in which the excessive use of police force resulted in the brutal murder of 25 black youths in Jacarezinho, a favela in Rio de Janeiro; and the case of Kathleen Romeu, a 24-year-old pregnant black girl, shot dead during an illegal police operation in the Lins Vasconcelos Complex, also a favela in Rio de Janeiro.
In another complaint to the UN Council, Race and Equality and The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA Mundo), the Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transsexuals and Intersexes (ABGLT)  was to denounce not only police violence, but also political violence that has haunted, delegitimized and silenced the Brazilian LGBTI+ population. The statement highlighted the case of Luana Barbosa, a black woman, mother and lesbian, brutally murdered by police in 2016, whose case was mentioned in Bachelet’s report. In addition, the implications of systemic racism traversed by sexism, makes the LGBTI+ population hostage not only of police brutality, which disrespects its gender identities in a violent way, but also hostage to the anti-gender agenda promoted by the current government, already institutionalized in the promotion of hate speech and closure of specific public policies that serve the LGBTI+ population.
Thus, it is worth remembering that the brutality of police violence in Brazil disproportionately affects the racialized population and people who express different genders. With the promotion of a state security policy that aims to eliminate these bodies, the system relies on the racist and LGBTIphobic structures and commands an eye-catching necropolitical project aimed at an agenda of ethnic-racial cleansing, promoting the genocide of the black population. Presented as a fait accompli by the government to disregard the injunction of the Supreme Court (STF) that restricts police operations in the city’s favelas during the COVID-19 pandemic, has resulted in more than 800 people killed by police since June 2020.
Responses from the States in the Region
In response to the complaints, the Brazilian state lamented the deaths cited by the High Commissioner’s report, making itself available to continue cooperating with the UN. Furthermore, the state informed that the justice system is investigating cases and intends to work on systemic responses and proposes to work specifically on human rights education for public authorities.
The Colombian government on the other hand, questioned the data presented on the murders of Afro-Colombian leaders and people during the National Strike, thus demanding that they be verified. In this way, it sought to delegitimize the protests that took place, emphasizing that the State does not tolerate violence by public servants that violate human rights— facts that can be proven both by media footage and by the constant denunciations of aggressions and deaths.
Race and Equality urges the States in the region to fully cooperate with the UN mechanism created to end impunity for racialized state violence; ensure accountability and remedies; and confront the roots of racism. In the case of Colombia, we express concern about the government’s negative response and our hope that the Colombian authorities will investigate and publicize human rights violations and killings against Afro-descendant defenders amid the National Strike protests.
As for Brazil, we hope that the State will follow up on investigations and on a human rights cooperation policy aimed at ending police violence and impunity for those responsible. We emphasize that Brazil needs to effectively implement the Inter-American Convention against Racism. Thus, we reaffirm our commitment to monitoring human rights violations by States and ensuring the implementation of this Resolution by the UN mechanism, so that it can work together with special procedures to strengthen accountability in the administration of racial justice. Finally, we believe that it is essential that the UN can ensure the participation of Afro-descendant peoples and communities in the formulation and implementation of States’ responses to systemic racism.