United Nations’ Reports Note ‘Systemic Racism’ in U.S. Legal System

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By Citlalli Florez

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Reports that detail how systemic racism affects and is part of every part of the U.S. legal system based on research, global consultations and official visits to the U.S. during April and May were presented before the United Nations Human Rights Council, according to the ACLU this week.

The reports were created by the UN’s “Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement,” established in 2021 after calls for “international condemnation of anti-Black racism and discrimination in law enforcement” by the ACLU and other civil rights groups.

UN experts were mandated to focus on the reimagining of policing on the international level. They were also told to focus on the reforming of the criminal legal system and the first report was released following a review of policing worldwide and includes recommendations on how public safety and the role of law enforcement can be re-envisioned, said the ACLU.

The second report was released after UN experts visited the U.S., and covered many topics, including, “lack of accountability for deadly use of force and racial profiling,” and offered concrete policy measures, including taking police out of traffic enforcement, out of schools, out of responding to mental health crises, and more.

Also covered were issues that disproportionately affect Black people in the U.S., including voter disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, extreme sentencing, solitary confinement, the death penalty, forced prison labor and the “use of biased tools for policing like facial recognition.”

The ACLU filed submissions and provided testimony to the UN.

Director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, Yasmin Cader,  commented on the reports, noting, “These reports for the United Nations come at a critical time in history as we commit to reimagining public safety systems.”

Cader added, “The recommendations further our vision for true transformative change, making it abundantly clear that we must make meaningful investments in our communities while at the same time condemning the rampant structural inequality and systemic oppression of Black people that plagues our policing and criminal legal system.”

The ACLU and the UN Anti-Racism Coalition (UNARC) cohosted a virtual event this week, and the panel discussed the reports along with speakers from civil society groups and human rights experts.

The experts included: Kerry Mclean (Human Rights Lawyer), Dr. Tracie L. Keesee (Expert Member of EMLER), Professor Juan E. Mendez (Expert Member of Embler), Salimah Hankins (Director of the UN Antiracism Coalition), Yasmin Cader (Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU), and Jimmy Hill (whose son, Jimmy Atchison, was murdered by Atlanta police).

Mandate given to the UN independent experts: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G21/199/03/PDF/G2119903.pdf?OpenElement

The first report presented: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G23/160/16/PDF/G2316016.pdf?OpenElement

The second report presented: https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/country-reports/ahrc54crp7-international-independent-expert-mechanism-advance-racial

ACLU written submission to the UN EMLER on re-imagining policing:

https://www.aclu.org/documents/aclu-written-submission-to-un-emler-on-reimagining-policing#:~:text=On%20May%2023%2C%202023%2C%20the,new%20paradigm%20for%20community%20safety

About The Author

Citlalli Florez is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently majoring in Legal Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Art Practice. She intends to attend law school in the future with the purpose of gaining skills to further serve her community.

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