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UN rights chief urges US to ‘stop denying and start dismantling racism’


By Leah Asmelash, CNN

The United Nations’ human rights chief is calling on the US to reform its criminal justice system, reimagine policing nationwide and provide reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans.

In a report published on Monday, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged the US to make “transformative change for racial justice and equality.”

“I am calling on all States to stop denying, and start dismantling, racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress,” Bachelet said in a statement.

The report was spurred by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which reignited a national conversation about race, police brutality and social injustice.

“The status quo is untenable,” Bachelet said. “Systemic racism needs a systemic response. There needs to be a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach to dismantling systems entrenched in centuries of discrimination and violence. We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd.”

The report outlines specific ways the United States needs to reckon with racism, including listening to the voices of Black people, acknowledging and confronting the legacy of racism and “ending impunity for human rights violations by law enforcement officials.”

Bachelet also issued her support for racial justice movements, including Black Lives Matter.

“The Black Lives Matter movement and other civil society groups led by people of African descent have provided grassroots leadership through listening to communities,” Bachelet said. “They are also providing people with the necessary agency and empowerment that enables them to claim their human rights. Such efforts should receive funding, public recognition and support.”

The UN human rights chief also encouraged the US to translate the report into “action plans and concrete measures.” The report also admonishes systemic racism around the world, not just in the US.

Attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of many victims of police violence, including Floyd, backed the Bachelet’s report.

“Systemic racism extends far beyond U.S. borders and is a plague that threatens the lives and wellbeing of Black people on every continent,” he said in a statement on Monday. “It is a significant first step for the United Nations to acknowledge global fault in police accountability for brutality against Black citizens and emphasize the importance of correcting it. We hope that the Biden administration and Congress will work with us and the United Nations to create the systemic change our country needs.”

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