Justice For All welcomes the verdict in the George Floyd Murder case. Justice for George Floyd is a hard won reality powered by the efforts of organizers and protestors who brought the world’s attention to this case. It is a win for human rights in the United States. But there are thousands more waiting for justice. Thousands of families.
As we’ve seen too many times, in the USA and around the world, sometimes police kill or seriously injure people during arrests fuelled by racism.
From the streets of Minneapolis to the corner of Shaheen Bagh, India, unlawful use of force by police can end in death, injury, and devastation. Police brutality is a global human rights issue.
Strict international laws and standards govern how and when police can use force – particularly lethal force.
The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (BPUFF) is the key international instrument that deals with police use of force. These must be adhered to in the United States.
An important thing to remember is this: it is the utmost obligation of state authorities, including police, to respect and protect the right to life.
Under international law, police officers should only ever use lethal force as a last resort. This means when such force is strictly necessary to protect themselves or others from the imminent threat of death or serious injury, and only when other options for de-escalation are insufficient.
Many killings by the police that we have seen around the world clearly do not meet this criteria. And political leaders in places like Brazil and the Philippines openly celebrate harsh police tactics, even murder.
In the USA, many Black residents are unarmed when they are killed by police; George Floyd, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray. The world knows of this troubling pattern and this makes it harder for the US government to advocate for human rights in other countries. “What about your own backyard?” they ask, seeking to weaken human rights arguments we make about persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China, for example.
But international human rights law strictly prohibits all forms of discrimination. No one should be treated differently by law enforcement because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, religion or belief, political or other opinion, ethnicity, national or social origin, disability, or other status. Everyone has the right to equal treatment under the law.
Yet racism and other forms of discrimination are built into law enforcement and justice systems around the world; from racial profiling and discriminatory police checks, to selective enforcement of drug policies and broad application of anti-terror laws. Too often in the United States, powerful police unions have worked to shield officers from scrutiny and prevent reform.
Justice For All agrees with President Biden’s statement that work has just begun. Police reform must include cultural changes within each department so that officers truly recognize that all human beings share the same level of humanity.
Verdicts are measures of individual accountability. They don’t bring back the dead. They don’t protect the living. There needs to be policy changes at City, State and Federal level. Yes, there needs to be better training, and better communication with communities, and funding for social services and opportunities for communities of color. But above all, we need real accountability built into the system. Justice for all, instead of mass incarceration for all.
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