UN racism resolution watered down, will no longer mention US

Geneva (AFP) –


The United States is no longer mentioned in a draft resolution before the UN Human Rights Council condemning systemic racism and police brutality, a revised version of the text showed Friday.

The UN's top rights body is due to vote Friday afternoon on a draft resolution initially presented by African countries this week ahead of an urgent council debate sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in the United States.

But the initially strongly-worded text, which called for a high-level international investigation into police violence against people of African descent in the United States, has been repeatedly watered down in recent days, sparking outrage from rights groups.

First the call for an international investigation was removed, and in what appeared to be a final revision circulated around midday Friday, the text no longer mentions the United States.

In its current form, the draft resolution calls for United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet to "prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies."

It adds that the report should especially pay attention to "those incidents that resulted in the death of George Floyd and other Africans and of people of African descent, to contribute to accountability and redress for victims."

Rights groups slammed the revision, charging that Washington had been lobbying hard for dramatic changes to the text.

"By bullying other countries to water down what would have been an historic resolution and exempting itself from international investigation, the United States is yet again turning its back on victims of police violence and black people," said Jamil Dakwar, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's human rights division.

- 'Meaningless'? -

Before the final revision was circulated, Human Rights Watch had cautioned that there was a lot of pressure to "strip all references to the United States from the resolution."

Doing so, HRW Geneva chief John Fisher warned, "would transform it into an 'all lives matter' text, and risk making it so vague as to be meaningless."

The United States withdrew from the council in 2018 but keeps a wary eye on its deliberations.

Washington complained of being singled out in the draft text, and a number of its allies, including Australia and Israel, spoke out against the US focus during the debate.

Andrew Bremberg, the US ambassador to the UN in Geneva, acknowledged earlier this week that the United States was "not above scrutiny."

But he stressed in a statement that the US was far from the only country where racism was a problem, and that its government leaders were among the most "transparent and responsive... in holding violators accountable for their actions and reforming our own system."

The urgent UN debate, which began on Wednesday and concluded Thursday, was called in the wake of George Floyd's killing, after a white Minneapolis police officer -- since charged with murder -- pressed a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd's death on May 25 fuelled a national and global uproar over racism and police brutality.

On the first day of the UN debate, Floyd's brother Philonise made an impassioned speech via video link, saying his brother had been "tortured to death" as witnesses begged the officer to stop.

He urged the council to establish an independent international commission of inquiry -- one of the UN's highest-level probes -- as called for in the initial version of the draft resolution.